Preliminary BRAIN Plans

An NIH working group lays out nine research areas the new federal neuroscience initiative will fund.

By | September 18, 2013

NIHIn April, President Barack Obama announced plans for a new federally funded neuroscience project, called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Earlier this week (September 16), a National Institutes of Health (NIH) working group released an interim report outlining nine broad areas the agency seeks to support.

All told, the BRAIN Initiative will fund $110 million worth of neuroscience research and training during fiscal year 2014. The NIH will dole out $40 million of that.

The research areas identified by the NIH working group are broad, though firmer priorities may be set in the group’s final report, due June 2014. “We haven’t made the toughest decisions yet,” working group co-chair Cori Bargmann, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University, told Nature.

The group’s current priorities include performing a census of brain cell types, linking neuronal activity to behavior, improving tools for manipulating brain circuits, disseminating knowledge on neuroscience research tools, and more. The overarching goal is to understand how neural circuits interact to spur memories, emotions, and behaviors.

Gerald Rubin, executive director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia, told ScienceNOW that the NIH’s $40 million is unlikely to go a long way, especially given the inclusiveness of the working group’s proposed research topics.

The National Science Foundation, which will give out $20 million as part of the BRAIN Initiative, has not yet released its plans for distributing funds, and The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it does not intend to release plans for the $50 million it will spend on the initiative, according to Nature.

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