Obama launches research initiative to study human brain
2013-04-04 0:00

By Jeff Mason and Julie Steenhuysen | Reuters



The White House unveiled a sweeping new initiative on Tuesday to map the individual cells and circuits that make up the human brain, a project that will give scientists a better understanding of how a healthy brain works and how to devise better treatments for injuries and diseases of the brain.

"There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked," said President Barack Obama of the ambitious project unveiled at a White House ceremony packed with scientists.

Called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the program will be funded with an initial $100 million from the presidentís fiscal 2014 budget, which the White House is slated to release next week.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the federally funded National Institutes of Health, likened the initiative to mapping the human genome, a $3.8 billion effort he helped to lead as former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

"The human brain is at the present time the most complicated organ in the known universe," Collins said in a conference call. "We aim through this ambitious - some would call it audacious - project, to try to unravel those mysteries."

Collins said the NIH plans to assemble a "dream team" of 15 scientists who will set the priorities for the research. Initially, scientists will try to learn the language of how the brain operates.

Ultimately, Collins said, the effort should allow researchers to understand such complex diseases as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimerís disease, traumatic brain injury and a long list of conditions "that collectively affect 100 million Americans and cost us $500 billion each year in terms of healthcare costs."

íPRETTY GOOD STARTí

Collins conceded that the initial investment of $100 million in the first year is just a start for this project, which likely will take many years to bear fruit. But he noted that the Human Genome Project started off with a $28 million investment.

"Even if you throw in an inflation factor, itís a pretty good start," said Collins, who noted that NIH spends a total of $5.5 billion for all of its neuroscience research efforts.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the Democratic president, who is in a standoff with Republican lawmakers over how to reduce the U.S. deficit, will be able to get a $100 million proposal through a highly divided Congress. But the president said that investment in areas such as education and development should be critical even as spending cuts are needed to address the countryís fiscal woes.

"We canít afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead. We have to seize them. I donít want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here," Obama said.

Although the funding requires congressional approval, agencies have some discretion to start working on the program ahead of time, a White House spokesman said.

The main thrust of the BRAIN Initiative "is to be able to study the brain at a large scale to see how lots of neurons work together to produce high-level functions like learning, memory and creativity," said neuroscientist John Donoghue of Brown University. Todayís brain imaging, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, "canít see the activity of individual neurons," he said: "itís like reading the newspaper at two armsí length."

But by monitoring activity in individual neurons, researchers hope to see, for instance, "how the brain produces language, including how the visual cortex interacts with speech and language areas so you can read a word, speak it and understand it. Itís a big network of neurons all communicating with each other," Donoghue said.

"But because we donít currently have the tools for this, the first step will be to develop them. That will involve, for instance, bringing in neuro-engineers to figure out how we can take advantage of advances in wireless technology" to place multiple probes in the brain to measure activity at the level of individual neurons, he said.

[...]

Read the full article at: reuters.com








Related Articles
Human Brain Cells Make Mice Smart
University creates first wireless, implanted brain-computer interface
Does Your Brain Have a Right to Privacy?
Brain area íwhere evil lurksí doesnít exist
China Uses Controversial Brain Surgery To Cure Drug Addiction
So It Begins: Darpa Sets Out to Make Computers That Can Teach Themselves
James Holmes Family Tied To DARPA And Mind Manipulation Work
Darpa, Venter Launch Assembly Line for Genetic Engineering
DARPA: Fake Brains, ASAP


Latest News from our Front Page

Sweden plans to expel up to 80,000 asylum-seekers
2016-02-08 3:58
Enrichment Sweden intends to expel up to 80,000 migrants who arrived in 2015 and whose application for asylum has been rejected, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Wednesday. "We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000," the minister was quoted as saying by Swedish media, adding that the government had asked the police and authorities in charge of ...
What Happened to Roosh and Why Did the International Media Run With the "Pro-Rape" Allegation Lie?
2016-02-08 1:40
In the past few days there has been a slew of articles coming out of the garbage pile that is the mainstream media, detailing how "Roosh V" of Return of Kings, not only is a "Pro-rapist," but how he also was going to teach men how to rape, at their planned international meetups. Roosh did a press conference in Washington DC, ...
An Occupied Country
2016-02-06 5:42
When people refer to occupation governments or occupied countries, the first thought is often of military occupationóthe garrisoning of foreign troops in oneís cities and civil administration by their military executives. The other vision is the trope of a cabal of Haredim sitting in a darkly-lit boardroom with a map of the world on the wall, a dated reading of ...
Immortal Symbols 1941
2016-02-06 2:07
Youtube description: Dutch film "Eeuwig Leevende Tekens" by Hamer - "Volksche Werkgemeenschap" (Folkish Study Group) - ancestral heritage, solar wheel, sun cross, tree of life, etc. Subs by Otharus - http://fryskednis.blogspot.com Source: youtube.com
Ex-German media boss admits on live radio the national news agenda is govt controlled
2016-02-06 1:32
If you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it. Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel. Together with sister network ARD; German's are obliged to pay Ä17.98 per month to fund it. This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF ...
More News »