The BRAIN Initiative

For the first time in memory, a President of the United States is directly addressing the human brain and all of the disorders stemming from brain dysfunction. On April 2nd, President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative, a national public-private initiative to map the human brain. This project combines federal funds and private sector dollars in the same way done to map the human genome. The Human Genome project was an amazing success, the fruits of which will be borne for decades to come. According to the White House, along with advancing science and health, the Human Genome project has provided an economic return of $141 for every dollar invested. Undoubtedly, the BRAIN Initiative will reap similar scientific, therapeutic and economic returns.

The goal of the BRAIN Initiative is to develop the knowledge necessary to create new treatments, preventions and cures for such disorders as brain injury, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism. The White House presentation indicates that the federal government will spend more than $100 million on the initiative through three agencies: 1) $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to understand functions of the brain; 2) $40 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop new tools, training programs and other resources; and 3) $20 million from the National Science Foundation to support physical, biological, social and behavioral sciences research. Private sector contributions include: 1) $60 million annually from the Allen Institute for Brain Science to understand how brain activity leads to perception, decision marking and actions; 2) $30 million annually from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to develop new imaging technologies, and understand how information is stored and processed in neural networks; 3) $4 million annually for 10 years from the Kavli Foundation to address debilitating diseases and conditions; and 4) $28 million from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies to produce a sophisticated understanding of the brain from individual genes to neuronal circuits to behavior. A bioethical study commission will also be charged with examining the implications of brain mapping and advances in neuroscience in terms of social, legal and ethical implications.

Details about the Brain Initiative can be found at http://www.nih.gov/science/brain/index.htm, and the fact sheet from the White House Press Office at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/02/fact-sheet-brain-initiative.