The Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience came into being on 1 July 2005 as the result of the merger of the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research and the Netherlands Ophthalmic Research Institute, both institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), but with very different backgrounds.

The Netherlands Institute for Brain Research dates back to the early 1900s. Its foundation was the result of a meeting of the International Association of Academies held in Paris in 1901, which led to the formation of the International Academic Committee for Brain Research in 1904. In the wake of these meetings several institutes for brain research were founded in Europe, among them, on 8 June 1909, the “Netherlands Central Institute for Brain Research”, as the institute was then called. Under the inspiring leadership of its first director, Prof. dr. Cornelius Ubbo Ariëns Kappers (director from 1909 to 1946) and his successors, the institute acquired an international reputation as a centre of excellent brain research. Originally oriented towards comparative neuroanatomy, the institute, under the leadership of renowned scientists such as Prof Dick F. Swaab (director 1978-2005), further developed into a multidisciplinary centre with outstanding research facilities, such as the Netherlands Brain Bank.

The Netherlands Ophthalmic Research Institute is of a more recent date. It started out in 1972, as an interuniversity institute created by the ophthalmic departments of the Dutch universities with the aim of providing them with a place to perform basic research. At that time it consisted of two departments: the Department of Ophthalmogenetics and the Department of Visual Systems Analysis. The ophthalmogenetic database, a unique research facility founded by Prof. dr. Willem Delleman, and the systematic functional analysis of the visual system initiated by Prof. dr. Henk Spekreijse made the institute into an internationally recognized centre of excellence in vision research. It provided an excellent infrastructure for genetic and functional-oriented research and formed a breeding place for the present generation of ophthalmologists. In the late 1990s the research objective began to focus increasingly on the functioning of the visual system and its relation to the brain.

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