Introducing the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain

In May 2020, Minnesota Masonic Charities built on its remarkable legacy of support for the University of Minnesota by committing $35 million to establish and name the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain. The institute will focus on the early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders in early childhood and adolescence. 

The vast majority of brain growth—80 percent—happens before a child turns three years old. It’s a time of incredible potential for on-track brain development that can lead to a bright future, or adverse effects that can result in a lifetime of mental health and behavioral challenges that have a cascading effect on individuals, families, and society as a whole. 

Adolescence is another pivotal period for brain development and reorganization. It’s also a time when children start to form their own identities, separate from their parents, and establish a sense of self with respect to peers. When this development trajectory goes off course, the risk rises for mental illness, addiction, and other behavioral challenges. 

Led by the U’s Medical School and College of Education and Human Development, the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain will bring together teams of researchers and clinicians who study how the brain is built during the formative years, when it is most receptive to positive intervention. Together, these experts will tackle disorders such as autism, ADHD, cognitive delays, drug addiction, and severe depression—conditions that often start early and have lifelong consequences.

The Masonic Institute is slated to open in fall 2021 at 2025 East River Parkway in Minneapolis, forming a research triangle with M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and the U’s Biomedical Discovery District. 

University of Minnesota President Joan T. A. Gabel, who has made student mental health one of her top priorities, believes Minnesota Masonic Charities’s support will improve lives when it matters most. “Early support of brain health sets the stage for everything to come in life,” she said. “Thanks to the Masons’ transformative gift, the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain will help ensure that children have the strongest start for a safe, happy, and productive life.”

“Our long-standing partnership with the University of Minnesota aligns with our mission to make meaningful contributions to society,” said Eric Neetenbeek, president and CEO of Minnesota Masonic Charities. “The Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain is another example of how we can unite the incredible expertise of the University with the capacity of Minnesota Masonry to benefit our entire state and, indeed, the world.”

Fun fact: The original cornerstone for the building that will soon house the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain was laid by the Masonic Fraternity on September 25, 1922. Herman Held was the Grand Master.