President Obama is tired of turning left at Albuquerque when following the current brain map, so he proposed a new $100 million, long-term investment initiative Tuesday: the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or BRAIN for short, so scientists may better understand our noggin'.
The New York Times had the details early this morning, and the President unveiled them at an event at the White House Tuesday morning. Obama will propose as part of his budget to be unveiled next week that the federal government — in a split between the NIH, DARPA, and the NSF, as well as a cooperation with public institutions — should invest $100 million into the project in 2014, in hopes to map the activity of all 100 billion neurons that make up your brain — and, eventually, perhaps lead to answers on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. "Ideas are what power our economy. It's what sets us apart. It's what America is all about," the President said during his announcement.
We got the first hint of Obama's thinking during his State of the Union address:
“If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas... Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy... Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s… Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.”
The project is going forward because the President has deemed mapping the brain "a grand challenge of the 21st century," the Times reported, or "The Next Great American Project," as the President called it during his remarks. Unfortunately, the technology that already exists for brain research can't track the 100 billion neurons that make our brains work, so the project would — emphasis on the would — spend its first few years figuring out new ways and developing new technologies to study the human brain. The team's first tasks are to develop "a plan, a time frame, specific goals and cost estimates for future budgets," that would lead to developing new technologies that would allow them to figure out what's going on up there. This is very much a long-term project that may not see any results for five, ten, even 15 years.