NSF awards millions for brain exploration

The National Science Foundation is investing $25 million to delve into the unknown intricacies of the human brain.

The money is meant to establish the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and aid researchers and scientists in their quest to unlock the potential of brain research.

“Understanding the brain is one of the grand scientific challenges at the intersection of the physical, life, behavioral and engineering sciences,” said John Wingfield, assistant director of NSF’s biological sciences directorate. “Despite major research and technological advances achieved in recent decades, a comprehensive understanding of the brain — how thoughts, memories and intelligent behavior emerge from dynamic brain activity — remains unexplained.”

The MIT center will have a key part in the White House’s ongoing Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, announced in April 2013.


“NSF is pleased to support a cohort of exceptionally strong center proposals in fiscal year 2013 that scientifically ‘top the charts’ in terms of their timeliness and their potential contribution to U.S. competitiveness,” said Wanda Ward, NSF’s office head of the Office of International and Integrative Activities, which oversees the program.

Despite reduced budgets and tough economic times, the administration is determined to not fall behind on important scientific research, according to the White House blog. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said: “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. … Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy.”

The goal at the MIT center is to establish a new theory of intelligence by crossing disciplines to build human-like machines and develop a new generation of minds proficient in human intelligence. Researchers seek to understand how the brain works, why it makes certain decisions and examine the gap between brain and machine.

The MIT center will be working with several other universities, including Stanford, Harvard and Cornell.

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