Obama launches new brain research initiative

Hannah Blake


The White House has unveiled a new initiative to revolutionise the understanding of the human brain and uncover new ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy. These conditions, along with many other brain-related injuries, collectively “affect 100 million Americans” and cost the US “$500 billion each year in terms of healthcare costs,” according to Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

The BRAIN Initiative, which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, will be funded with an initial US $100 million from President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget. This is only the beginning of a project that may take many years. President Obama has called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropies to join with him in identifying and pursuing additional “Grand Challenges of the 21st century”. Ultimately, these challenges can create the jobs and industries of the future while improving lives.

“Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s, or struggle in the grip of epilepsy.

“What if computers could respond to our thoughts or our language barriers could come tumbling down. Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields – jobs we haven’t even dreamt up yet – because we chose to invest in this project.

“That’s the future we’re imagining. That’s what we’re hoping for. That’s why the Brain Initiative is so absolutely important.”

An extract from President Obama’s speech.

This effort builds on the President’s State of the Union call for historic investments in R&amp,D to fuel innovation, job creation and economic growth. There’s hope that this new initiative will also attract fresh interest from pharma companies who have largely abandoned R&amp,D of neuroscience. This has mainly been because of many expensive failed attempts at developing drugs using incomplete models of how the brain works.

Following the announcement, Joseph Martin, who directs the Rutgers-Camden Center for Computational and Integrative Biology (CCIB), has stated that his facility at the university will be seeking part of President Obama’s funding to help meet the goal of understanding different groups of neural circuits and how they break down in disease.


Related news:

Rutgers-Camden biology center director lauds Obama BRAIN initiative (NJ.com)

Obama unveils brain mapping initiative and calls for further research (Guardian)

Obama launches research initiative to study human brain (Reuters)

Reference links:

The White House press release

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