Press Release


Contact: Candice Douglass
Director of Marketing and Communications
University of Washington
206. 616.3506

The Bezos Family Foundation Leads $30 Million Campaign to Further Research Initiatives by the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences to Help Children Succeed

I-LABS is a leading interdisciplinary research institute focusing on understanding human learning and brain development in infants and young children

May 27, 2014 -- SeattleThe University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) announced that the Bezos Family Foundation has committed $10 million to support The Ready Mind Project.

This Bezos Family Foundation gift will serve as a match to leverage additional private support. I-LABS’ goal is to secure $30 million dollars to support six research initiatives in The Ready Mind Project. These research initiatives are exploring how and when children learn. Research findings will influence the way children are prepared for school, better equipping them for education and success in contemporary society. Funds from the campaign will also support I-LABS critical work in communicating scientific research findings in ways to non-scientific audiences and stakeholders, including policymakers, practitioners, educators and parents that lead in turn to specific action.

“Children are born with enormous potential' says, Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation.  “However, far too often that potential is not realized.  Findings from The Ready Mind Project at The Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences will unlock the secrets of human learning.  This knowledge will lead the way to the development of practical approaches to stimulate every child’s capacity to achieve.”

Previous work by I-LABS scientists has shown how infants learn sounds and words from foreign languages through social interaction but not via television, that bilingual children are more cognitively flexible than their monolingual peers, and how the power of children’s imitation can, in turn, lead to rapid cultural learning. I-LABS scientists developed new tools for measuring the young child’s brain. These tools will be used in the Ready Mind Project to measure how brain development is influenced by environmental stimulation, and the role that genes play in opening “critical periods” for learning early in development.

“For the first time, I-LABS scientists can now see a young child’s brain in action as the child learns. We will be better able to understand how to help all children reach their potential, and to identify children with developmental disabilities early in life when interventions matter most,” stated Dr. Patricia Kuhl, the Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and co-director of I-LABS.

“The learning that takes place in the magical first 2000 days of a child’s life is foundational for success in school. The Ready Mind Project will combine basic science with the dissemination of actionable research by partnering with organizations committed to the well-being of children,” stated Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair and co-director of I-LABS.

Michael K. Young, president of the University of Washington, added that The Ready Mind Project comes amid growing interest and investment in neuroscience around the world. “In 2011, President Obama announced $100 million in funding for the BRAIN Initiative that aims to map neurons in the brain, and the European Union is investing more than a billion dollars in its own Human Brain Project,” said Young. “The University of Washington is proud of the cutting-edge research being conducted at I-LABS and is excited about the potential impact this research will have on brain science and on the future success of our children. This work would not be possible, however, without the passion and catalytic investment of the Bezos Family Foundation,” Young continued. “They’ve proven to be a visionary partner in this effort.”

In addition to the $10 million commitment from the Bezos Family Foundation, I-LABS has received $1.4 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and $1 million from the R. B. and Ruth H. Dunn Charitable Foundation toward the $30 million campaign. 

About I-LABS

The Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences is an interdisciplinary research institute.  Founded in 2004, it is dedicated to discovering the fundamental principles of human learning with an emphasis on learning in children from zero to five years. By conducting innovative research and working closely with partners dedicated to outreach and education, I-LABS seeks to quicken the pace at which new knowledge about early learning is put to practical use.  The Institute's co-directors are Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl, Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, and Dr. Andrew N. Meltzoff, Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair, both at the University of Washington. Their scientific studies on children and adults have had a far-reaching impact on cognitive science, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and education.  Learn more about I-LABS at






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