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NIH announces focus of funding for BRAIN initiative

Monday was a big day for President Obama's BRAIN Initiative -  a ten-year, 100-million dollar research plan designed to advance technologies related to mapping and understanding how the human brain works. Since the initiative was announced in April, several aspects of brain function have been identified as potential focal points for the project.

Now, the National Institutes of Health has said they will direct their $40 million budget for the BRAIN Initiative towards research that investigates multi-cellular brain circuits and systems. This announcement was made yesterday, after the NIH director approved the research proposal by the BRAIN Working Group.

From a New York Times story:

Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the N.I.H., who accepted the report and its recommendations, said that he had asked the group, led by Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University and Bill Newsome of Stanford, to think big, and that it would be the job of the N.I.H. to make actual spending decisions.

Dr. Bargmann agreed that the overall goal of figuring out “how circuits in the brain generate complex thoughts and behavior” was not something to be tackled with the $40 million that the N.I.H. hopes to have for 2014.

“You can’t do all of that in year one, you can’t do all of that with $40 million, and you can’t do all of that at N.I.H. either,” she said.


The report recommends that the N.I.H.’s immediate goals should be to develop new tools to investigate both animal and human brains and to accomplish basic, but so far elusive, goals like determining how many different types of neurons there are, what they do and how to study them. It proposed nine high-priority research areas, all of which could take many years and involve other agencies and institutions. But the report, said Dr. Collins, is “a great blueprint for getting started.”

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: BRAIN Initiative and the Human Brain Project: Aiming to understand how the brain worksBrain’s gain: Stanford neuroscientist discusses two major new initiativesCo-leader of Obama’s BRAIN Initiative to direct Stanford’s interdisciplinary neuroscience instituteExperts weigh in on the new BRAIN Initiative and A federal push to further brain research

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