Doubling Up on Brain Power

Europe and the United States launch a collaboration linking their government-backed initiatives to study the human brain.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Mar 19, 2014

FLICKR, PENN STATEIn April 2013, President Barack Obama introduced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, with an initial $100 million in federal funds dedicated to better understanding human brain activity. Six months later, the European Union launched its €1-billion Human Brain Project (HBP). Now, the two projects have decided to join forces. While some BRAIN and HBP researchers already collaborate informally, this year they will commence a structured partnership.

“[The brain] is something that has defied understanding. You can’t imagine a more important scientific cooperation,” Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who sits on the House panel that oversees funding for several US science agencies, said in a speech last week (March 12), according to Nature.

The nature of the collaboration remains to be determined, but the overarching aim is clear: to improve research efficiency and minimize overlap between the projects. US government officials expect that the...

Sean Hill, HBP researcher and EPFL computational neuroscientist, noted that the two projects will complement each other well, with BRAIN focusing on the development of new imaging tools and HBP devoting more resources to developing computation brain models. “I think it’s just perfect,” he told Nature.

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