President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday the BRAIN initiative, a $100 million brain-mapping project. The BRAIN initiative will attempt to find ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease and strokes while also aiding in job growth.
The Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or BRAIN, Initiative is Obama’s $100 million “investment” to better understand the brain and learn how humans “think, learn and remember.”
The $100 million bill will be shared between the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, and the National Science Foundation, or NSF. The NIH will invest approximately $40 million to develop new tools and technology that will help scientists and researchers better understand the brain. Darpa will add approximately $50 million to develop new applications and other technologies based on “understanding the dynamic functions of the brain.” The NSF will provide an estimated $20 million to help promote research in a number of different fields including physical, biological, social and behavioral sciences.
The BRAIN Initiative is looking to use the better understanding of the brain and apply the newfound knowledge to everything from health to technology. Understanding different brain functions could lead to developments in Parkinson’s disease treatment and could lead to new preventative measures or, optimistically, new cures. The BRAIN Initiative could also help war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.
In addition to advances in technology and health, the BRAIN Initiative also paves the way for new high-tech jobs.
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Other private sector partners will also contribute to the BRAIN Initiative. The Allen Institute for Brain Science will contribute $60 million annually with the goal to “understand how brain activity leads to perception, decision-making and, ultimately, action.” Howard Hughes Medical Center will spend $30 million annually to develop imaging techniques that will help identify how information is stored and processed in the brain. The Kavli Foundation will add $4 million annually to support education in order to address “debilitating diseases and conditions.” The Salk Institute for Biological Studies will contribute $28 million to aid in the comprehensive research of the brain, from its genetic makeup to how it behaves.
Funding for the BRAIN Initiative will begin in October, ABC News reports. Obama made the announcement from the White House on Tuesday and said, “As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the 3 pounds of matter that sits between our ears.”
The lack of understanding of the brain has stymied efforts to treat, or possibly cure, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and has prevented scientists from being able to find ways to “fully reverse the effects of a stroke,” Obama said.
The investment in brain mapping is reminiscent of the federally funded Human Genome Project, ABC News notes. Technology developed as part of the Human Genome Project lead to advances in computers, GPS and data processing used as part of the Internet. The BRAIN Initiative could lead to similar technological breakthroughs, while also creating jobs in a high-tech sector that was a focal point in Obama’s State of the Union address.
A video explaining the goals of the BRAIN Initiative can be viewed below.