The James S. McDonnell Foundation created the McDonnell Center for Studies of Higher Brain Function at Washington University Medical School in 1980. It was the result of a series of conversations between James F. McDonnell, Bill Danforth, Chancellor of the University, and Sidney Goldring (Head of Neurosurgery). That Center transitioned in name to the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience in 2007. Soon after the launch of the Higher Brain Function Center in 1980, and with advice from Drs. Sidney Goldring and Gerry Fischbach (Head of Anatomy and Neurobiology), the McDonnell Foundation launched a complementary Center at WUMS in 1983 – the Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. Drs. Goldring and Fischbach made the convincing case that, for the McDonnell Family to help address major problems in Brain Science, support was needed at both the systems level (Higher Brain Function) and the microscopic level (Cellular and Molecular). They argued that the work of each Center was critically dependent on that of the other. In the ensuing decades, financial support from the twin McDonnell Centers has ensured the preeminence of Neuroscience research at Washington University. The Centers have helped launch new careers, helped promote new technical initiatives and helped define the central questions that drive modern Neuroscience research.
1983 – 1990 Dr. Gerald Fischbach
1990 – 1992 Dean William Peck
1992 – 2001 Dr. Dennis Choi
2002 – 2012 Dr. Charles Zorumski
2013 – 2019 Dr. Azad Bonni
2019 – 2020 Dr. Paul Taghert
2021 – Dr. Linda Richards