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NIH embraces bold, 12-year scientific vision for BRAIN Initiative


For release: Thursday, June 5, 2014

New report outlines initiative goals, budget, and timeline

A federal report calls for $4.5 billion in funding for brain research over the next 12 years. The long-term scientific vision of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was presented today to National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., by his Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). Dr. Collins accepted the recommendations, calling the report bold and game changing.

“How the brain works and gives rise to our mental and intellectual lives will be the most exciting and challenging area of science in the 21st century,” said Dr. Collins. “As a result of this concerted effort, new technologies will be invented, new industries spawned, and new treatments and even cures discovered for devastating disorders and diseases of the brain and nervous system.”

The report drafted by the ACD BRAIN Working Group maps out a sustained commitment of $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016 to achieve seven primary goals. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014 and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH’s component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget.

The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. The following scientific goals were identified as high priorities for achieving this vision:

  • Identify and provide experimental access to the different brain cell types to determine their roles in health and disease.
  • Generate circuit diagrams that vary in resolution from synapses to the whole brain.
  • Produce a dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity.
  • Link brain activity to behavior with precise interventional tools that change neural circuit dynamics.
  • Produce conceptual foundations for understanding the biological basis of mental processes through development of new theoretical and data analysis tools.
  • Develop innovative technologies to understand the human brain and treat its disorders; create and support integrated brain research networks.
  • Integrate new technological and conceptual approaches produced in the other goals to discover how dynamic patterns of neural activity are transformed into cognition, emotion, perception, and action in health and disease.

These scientific goals will be maximized through seven core principles:

  • Pursue human studies and non-human models in parallel
  • Cross boundaries in interdisciplinary collaborations
  • Integrate spatial and temporal scales
  • Establish platforms for preserving and sharing data
  • Validate and disseminate technology
  • Consider ethical implications of neuroscience research
  • Create mechanisms to ensure accountability to the NIH, the taxpayer, and the community of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscientists

The Working Group outlined an investment ramping up to $400 million a year for fiscal years 2016-2020 to focus on technology development and validation. They called for $500 million a year for years 2020-2025 to increasingly focus on the application of those technologies in an integrated fashion to make fundamental new discoveries about the brain. The working group emphasized that its cost estimates assume that the budget for the BRAIN Initiative will supplement — not supplant — NIH’s existing investment in the broader spectrum of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research.

“While these estimates are provisional and subject to congressional appropriations, they represent a realistic estimate of what will be required for this moon shot initiative,” said Dr. Collins. “As the Human Genome Project did with precision medicine, the BRAIN Initiative promises to transform the way we prevent and treat devastating brain diseases and disorders while also spurring economic development.”

In December 2013, NIH announced six funding opportunities in response to high priority areas identified by the BRAIN Working Group in September 2013. Awards are expected to be announced in September 2014.

The BRAIN Initiative is jointly led by NIH, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Food and Drug Administration. Private organizations are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the initiative. The White House will hold an event External Web Site Policy later this year to feature the role of additional organizations in achieving the President’s bold vision.

The ACD advises the NIH Director on policy matters important to the NIH mission of conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research, research training, and translating research results for the public. For more information on the ACD and the full agenda of the 105th meeting, visit: http://acd.od.nih.gov/index.htm. The full presentations with more detailed information on NIH’s implementation plans will be posted on the meeting and working group pages of the ACD website in the coming weeks and are available upon request.

For more information about the BRAIN Initiative and the ACD working group:
NIH BRAIN Initiative website
NIH BRAIN Initiative Feedback website
NIH Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Working Group website

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od.

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About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

Last Modified June 6, 2014