‘Minds Wide Open’ Documentary Highlights Advances in Brain Research

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by Mary Chapman |

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Minds Wide Open

In the documentary “Minds Wide Open,” which spotlights advances in brain research, Monica Coenraad is cautiously hopeful about her daughter Chelsea’s future with Rett syndrome.

“I don’t expect a 100 percent ‘like it never ever even happened’ cure for Chelsea, but I do think that there can be improvements,” said Coenraad, who in the film described working with Rett specialists such as Michael E. Greenberg, PhD, at Harvard Medical School. “I think we’re at the point now where we’re going to have an opportunity to try, and that’s really exciting.”

Bringing to seven the number of international awards won, the 60-minute documentary recently won two gold medals and a bronze at the New York Festivals TV & Film Awards. It was commissioned by the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chin Institute. The philanthropist couple has committed $1 billion to help promote brain research.

“Making this film was important to us because it highlights just how close scientists studying the brain and mind are to making really meaningful breakthroughs that will help the world,”  Tianqiao Chen said in a news release. “We have made significant commitments to help advance the field; however, more support is needed from other philanthropists, funders, and members of the public.”

Produced by Tim May and United Kingdom-based production company MerchantCantos, the film premiered last September on the Discovery Channel, and features a dozen researchers and physicians from around the world, including the University of California-Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Huashan Worldwide Medical Center and Stanford University.

These experts offer the latest in brain investigations, biology, psychiatry, artificial intelligence, and robotics, and show how such advances can benefit those living with brain disorders including Rett, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects some 350,000 people, mostly girls, worldwide. The disease causes cognitive, emotional, sensory, motor, and other problems.

“We commissioned Minds Wide Open as a way of advocating for the scientific community,” said institute co-founder Chrissy Luo. “Our hope is that scientists and researchers can use the film to make the case for supporting early-career scientists and for taking an interdisciplinary approach to studying the human brain.”

The couple plans to develop other documentaries to highlight scientific advances as well as obstacles researchers face as they seek to solve mysteries of the brain.

The film is available on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes. All proceeds from rentals and sales will go to research and patient efforts presented in the film, including the Rett Syndrome Trust, which aims to drive development of treatments and cures for Rett and related disorders. Watch a complimentary 26-minute version of the documentary here.