Obama Launches $100m Human Brain Research Initiative
President Obama today announced funding for a $100 million research initiative, aimed at mapping the complex workings of the human brain. According to the President, the aim of the study is to understand what goes wrong in a range of debilitating neurological conditions, from childhood autism to Alzheimer's disease, and consequently provide new treatments and possibly cures for brain disorders that have become the biggest medical burden in the developed world.
The new research initiative – Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Nanotechnologies (BRAIN) – has been awarded a relatively small initial budget compared to other big research initiatives, however Obama said that it would kick start a field of endeavor that has been likened to the $3.6 billion human genome project to map the complete DNA sequence of man.
“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 three pounds of matter that sits between our ears,” President Obama said at a White House news conference.
“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 - every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer'. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race,” President Obama said.
The BRAIN initiative is directed at mapping the neural circuits of the brain using sophisticated technology such as tiny nanosensors and wireless fibre-optic tools, in conjunction with more traditional methods such as magnetic resonance.
The BRAIN initiative will be orchestrated by America's federal research institutes in cooperation with the private sector and is intended to grow into what will become the largest collaborative research effort into brain disorders.
This is not the first project launched in recent months focusing on research of the human brain. Earlier this year, the European Commission announced the Human Brain Project, one of two flagship science programs involving more than 80 research institutions from across Europe with a combined budget of €1.19bn over 10 years.