Obama Unveils Details of New Human Brain Mapping Initiative

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REUTERS
REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on Feb. 12, 2013.

First the genome, now the brain.

On Tuesday, President Obama provided more information about his plan to invest $100 million in 2014 to map the human brain. The goal of the project, referred to as the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the Brain Activity Map project, is to develop technologies that can document the interactions between nerve cells and the complex network of circuits that are at the root of human thoughts, behavior and functions. The knowledge will better inform scientists about diseases like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, autism and traumatic brain injury, and hopefully lead to new treatments for these conditions. President Obama referred to the project in this year’s State of the Union address.

The project is modeled after the Human Genome Project, which also tackled a seemingly monumental task, that of mapping out all of the molecular letters in the human genome. But BRAIN is an open-ended project for now, with no deadline for completing the most detailed dossier on the brain to date. According to a White House press release, the $100 million in funding will come from the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation.

In describing the project, the White House said:

The BRAIN Initiative will accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. These technologies will open new doors to explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information, and shed light on the complex links between brain function and behavior.

To find out more about the BRAIN Initiative, read our coverage of the project here.