On April 2, 2013 President Obama announced a new “Grand Challenge” called the BRAIN Initiative. The BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) will receive $100 million in government funding, and is supported by other public and private organizations as well. The Initiative “promises to accelerate the invention of new technologies that will help researchers produce real-time pictures of complex neural circuits and visualize the rapid-fire interactions of cells that occur at the speed of thought,” according to Collins and Prabhaker of the White House Blog. The hope is that by creating these new technologies researchers will be able to gain dramatic insight into neuropathologies and neuropsychology. The blog article compared the BRAIN Initiative to the Human Genome Project in the impact it could have for personalized healthcare and job creation.
It is incredibly exciting to see such a huge public investment being made towards innovation and research in the neuro-field. Seung must be having a field day! While this is undoubtedly an important step towards prevention and treatment of neuropathologies, I found the description of the goals of the BRAIN initiative to be vague and lacking important details. I am curious as to the specific goals and how the researchers intend to approach this enormous challenge. Furthermore the lack of a timeline for the project concerns me. The only mention of time was in a video of Dr. Francis Collins, in which he said it would take “quite a few years.” But what does that mean? As we know from Seung, it will take more than “a few years” to map out a human connectome. I am incredibly intrigued, but also curious as to when more information will be available on this huge, new initiative.
To check out the White House Blog: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/04/02/brain-initiative-challenges-researchers-unlock-mysteries-human-mind