Obama’s Brain Initiative

The National Institutes of Health has allocated $46 million “to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.”

  • Lawrence Livermore Laboratory was given $1.2 million
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was awarded 7 separate grants totaling $4.5 million
  • University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic received close to $5 million “for basic neuroscience, generate ways to classify and analyze the brain’s 86 billion cells and trillions of connections, and create new ways to record brain circuits, among other goals”

Other grants were given to “develop systems that use lasers to control the activity of individual cells and circuits in the brain”, differentiate “cell types in brain circuits involved in vision and other sensations”, and use fMRI technology to “show the activity of individual brain cells”.

Along with the distribution of money, the National Photonics Initiative (NPI) created the Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group (PING) to work with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and BRAIN to involve private industry organizations and investment potentials initially committing $30 million in existing and future research and development spending over the next three years to advance optics and photonics technology.

Francis Collins, director of the NIH explained : “The human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe. We’ve only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works — or, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work when disorders and disease occur. There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible. These initial awards are part of a 12-year scientific plan focused on developing the tools and technologies needed to make the next leap in understanding the brain. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

The majority of the money is going toward the furtherance of technology designed to:

  • classifying the myriad cell types in the brain
  • producing tools and techniques for analyzing brain cells and circuits
  • creating next-generation human brain imaging technology
  • developing methods for large-scale recordings of brain activity
  • integrating experiments with theories and models to understand the functions of specific brain circuits …


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