LOS ANGLES, Calif. — In a major case of academic poaching involving crosstown rivals, USC has lured away two prominent neuroscientists from UCLA with a promise to expand their internationally renowned lab, which uses brain imaging techniques to study Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism and other disorders, it was reported today.

Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson will move to the USC Keck School of Medicine campus next fall, along with scores of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staffers who now work at UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, known as LONI, the Los Angeles Times reported on its web site.

In establishing a new institute at the USC campus in Boyle Heights, they will also move substantial government and private grants that fund the lab’s $12 million annual budget as well as some of the highly sophisticated equipment used to investigate the brain’s inner workings, according to the newspaper.

Toga and Thompson told The Times that they do not think their departure from UCLA signifies a brain drain from the 10-campus University of California system, which has grappled with budget cuts over the last four years.

They said USC has pursued them for years with offers of larger facilities, additional financial resources and the chance to hire more researchers. They also were impressed with how quickly private universities can make changes compared with state schools, according to The Times.