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Opinion: BRAIN Is Not Enough

The recently announced BRAIN Initiative, referred to as the Apollo program for neuroscience, needs more funding and better goals to live up to the hype.

By | June 6, 2013

FLICKR, ADRIGUEarlier this year, President Obama kicked off the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative with great fanfare, announcing a $100 million funding grant to start a “bold new research effort” aimed at unlocking “the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.” This is great news for scientists who study brain function in the sense that any funding and high-level attention is a welcome addition to a comparatively underfunded, underappreciated field of study. But it’s hardly a grand national challenge on par with the Apollo and Human Genome Project to which it’s sometimes compared.

In fact, other countries are taking a much more aggressive approach to advancing brain science. In China, the Brainnetome project was launched nearly 10 years ago, and the European Union is pouring $1.5 billion into its Human Brain Project. As Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, recently said, “healthy brains are essen­tial for happy indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies, for an effi­cient work force, for inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts and ser­vices. . . . There­fore, invest­ment in brain research is an intel­li­gent invest­ment, espe­cially in times of scare resources, as it can help avoid even higher costs to soci­ety in the future.”

Indeed, healthcare costs are a chief culprit in government budget shortfalls, and a growing portion of those costs are brain-related. A recent RAND Corporation study found that the cost of caring for patients with dementia is already on par with the cost of treating cancer or heart disease, and dementia care expenses are projected to double by 2040. Despite that, brain health initiatives get only a fraction of the funding devoted to other conditions. And the BRAIN Initiative does little to change this.

In addition to the relatively paltry funding provided for BRAIN, the project also has ill-defined real-world goals, unlike the President Kennedy’s clear mission of the Apollo program: a moon landing and safe return. If brain science initiatives were framed in an equally compelling way, they would be much more likely to improve the lives of millions of people with autism, attention deficits, depression, traumatic brain injury, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

For example, an online brain health check-up application is about to be commercialized in Canada, as the result of a public-private partnership, to help individuals keep track of their cognitive status over time. Its aggregate results can provide incredibly valuable data points for public health officials to objectively evaluate and refine standards of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Such national efforts, which combine relatively inexpensive digital tools with Big Data analysis, enable scientists and statisticians to gain insight into population brain health issues that can have major effects on public policy, workplace productivity, and education. The National Health Service in the U.K., for instance, is currently using online-based therapy tools as first-line treatment for anxiety and depression, before any anti-depressants are prescribed. And in Singapore, the government is funding researchers and start-ups to develop next-generation brainwave monitoring and training tools to enhance student concentration and academic outcomes.

The BRAIN initiative could take a valuable lesson from these initiatives—and from the Apollo program. By linking its research agenda and outcomes to what is precisely required to enhance the health and lives of all our citizens, this nationwide effort would begin to live up to its hype.

Alvaro Fernandez runs SharpBrains.com, an independent market research firm that tracks applied neuroscience. The firm recently published a book: The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age (April 2013).

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Avatar of: arjayt

arjayt

Posts: 1

June 7, 2013

Alvaro Fernandez in The Scientist:   'Such national efforts, which combine relatively inexpensive digital tools with Big Data analysis, enable scientists and statisticians to gain insight into population brain health issues that can have major effects on public policy, workplace productivity, and education.'

With no Bill of Rights or Democide protections whatever?  

Avatar of: Alexandru

Alexandru

Posts: 70

June 13, 2013

Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope: 'Education enables children to hope for a better life ... I expressed an immovable opinion based on my belief in God.'

However, I have the same opinion with this article title: "brain is not enough".

Technical inspired from Learning Management System Control algorithm, used in mobile satellite communication, and biological inspired from Adam mtDNA inheritance, neglected by scientists but observed by me at the puberty only in *born boy's* seminal liquid and not in vitro made, I proposed "Brain and soul storming theory" that was lunched in my book "Brief history of the man creation - From Adam to the Revelation" (ISBN 978-606-92107-0-3 - only in Romanian language) and in the brief "Mitochondrial Adam data transmission theory" (ISBN 978-606-92107-1-0 - in English).

 

Abstract: Brain and soul storming - The necessary and sufficient processes to a well function of the human body are meticulous arranged by specific organizational cells, so called process biomanagers, using interconditioned procedures, transmitted through three ways of communication: chemical or “protein channel”, electrical or “ion channel” and mitochondrial or “EMF wireless channel”. The third type is out of the visible and measurable spectrum and raises a new challenge to the scientists. For this type of bio communication we bring a new theoretical hypothesis, based on the managerial multidisciplinary analysis of a cybernetic model proposed by us, by simulating the human body function with the virtual computerized system based on the management of its total knowledge and its perfect quality way of function. The main bricks used for this virtual construction are: the brain, as main bioprocessor, and Eve mtDNA and Adam mtDNA, as bio-antennas. This assembly of the total knowledge, build with “brain reasoning, biological feeling, and unlimited soul feeling”, is called by us “main decision triangle, IQ-EQ-CQ”. The main principle of the management of the total knowledge imposes us to not neglect any information produced by man during the time, even if it seems creasy at the beginning. Because in the natural fertilisation the spermatozoids are naturally equipped with the paternal mtDNA (a veritable main bio-GPS), we consider that the paternal mitochondria DNA have a very important role in the evolution of the human being life quality and we have developed a new hypothesis, “Adam mtDNA theory”, in addition to “Eve mtDNA theory”.

Keywords: brain, mitochondria, maternal, paternal

 

Adam%20mtDNA%20inheritance%20theory.pdf

Avatar of: Eric J. Murphy

Eric J. Murphy

Posts: 12

June 19, 2013

We still will not understand well how fatty acids enter the brain, are trafficked, and metabolized in the brain to support brain function.  Rather, we'll focus on "high end" science that will provide us with all of the answers with limited funding.  Yet, fundamental questions about brain biochemistry will remain unfunded by this effort, despite these issues being fundamentally critical for brain function in health and disease. 

Politics and funding science just don't mix well, as this administration and the past administration has demonstrated in their short sighted approaches.   NIH is not big pharam so leave drug creation to pharma and don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater on stem cell research.  So another White House initiative.......remember how many additional grants ARRA funded? 

 

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