White House commits $100 million to brain mapping
The White House is proposing a $100 million investment into research to map the human brain with hopes that results could rival that of the Human Genome Project, President Obama announced on Tuesday.
Called the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), the project aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure and prevent brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The $100 million investment will be spread between The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation starting in fiscal year 2014.
The federal research agencies will partner with companies, foundations and private research institutions that are also investing in relevant neuroscience research, such as the Allen Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
The money will be used to hopefully accelerate the development and application of new technologies to enable researchers to produce pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact, the White House said.
“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,” the White House said in a statement.
According to the White House, this is the breakdown of money being allocated to federal agencies under the initiative and what it will be specifically used for:
- National Institutes of Health
The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research—an initiative that pools resources and expertise from across 15 NIH Institutes and Centers—will be a leading NIH contributor to the implementation of this initiative in FY 2014. The Blueprint program will contribute funding for the initiative, given that the Blueprint funds are specifically devoted to projects that support the development of new tools, training opportunities, and other resources. In total, NIH intends to allocate approximately $40 million in FY 2014.
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
In FY 2014, DARPA plans to invest $50 million in a set of programs with the goal of understanding the dynamic functions of the brain and demonstrating breakthrough applications based on these insights. DARPA aims to develop a new set of tools to capture and process dynamic neural and synaptic activities. DARPA is interested in applications—such as a new generation of information processing systems and restoration mechanisms—that dramatically improve the way we diagnose and treat warfighters suffering from post-traumatic stress, brain injury, and memory loss. DARPA will engage a broad range of experts to explore the ethical, legal, and societal issues raised by advances in neurotechnology.
- National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation will play an important role in the BRAIN Initiative because of its ability to support research that spans biology, the physical sciences, engineering, computer science, and the social and behavioral sciences. The National Science Foundation intends to support approximately $20 million in FY 2014 in research that will advance this initiative, such as the development of molecular-scale probes that can sense and record the activity of neural networks; advances in “Big Data” that are necessary to analyze the huge amounts of information that will be generated, and increased understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions, and memories are represented in the brain.