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The BRAIN Initiative

How Will The BRAIN Initiative Work At NIH?

Image of the dentate gyrus of the mouse hippocampus using Brainbow transgenes. This technology, developed by researchers at Harvard University, uses genetic methods to label individual nerve cells in different colors to identify and track axons and dendrites over long distances. Credit: Joshua Sanes, Ph.D., Harvard University Medical School External Web Site Policy

Given the ambitious scope of this pioneering endeavor, it is vital that planning be informed by a wide range of expertise and experience. Therefore, NIH has established a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) to help shape this new initiative. This working group, co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann (The Rockefeller University) and Dr. William Newsome (Stanford University), has been asked to articulate the scientific goals of the BRAIN Initiative and develop a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including timetables, milestones, and cost estimates. As part of this planning process, input is being sought broadly from the scientific community, patient advocates, and the general public.

On September 16, 2013, the working group issued an interim report identifying high priority research areas for NIH funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 that are critical to supporting the mission of the BRAIN Initiative. The ACD fully endorsed these findings and the NIH Director agreed that the ACD’s recommendations would be used to guide NIH’s future investments in the BRAIN Initiative. The working group will continue to work over the course of the next year to develop the longer term scientific plan, which is expected to be delivered to the ACD in June 2014.

How will the BRAIN Initiative be supported by NIH?

In total, NIH intends to allocate $40 million in FY 2014. Given the cross-cutting nature of this project, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research—an effort spanning 15 NIH Institutes and Centers—will be the leading NIH contributor to its implementation in FY 2014. Of course, a goal this audacious will require ideas from the best scientists and engineers across many diverse disciplines and sectors. Therefore, NIH is working in close collaboration with other government agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Private partners are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the BRAIN Initiative.

Five years ago a project such as this would have been considered impossible. Five years from now will be too late. While the goals are profoundly ambitious, the time is right to inspire a new generation of neuroscientists to undertake the most groundbreaking approach ever contemplated to understanding how the brain works, and how disease occurs.

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute use high-speed light-sheet microscopy to image almost all neurons in the intact larval zebrafish brain at single-cell resolution, capturing activity in the entire brain once every 1.3 s. Source: Nature External Web Site Policy , March 18, 2013



This page last reviewed on April 25, 2014

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