Global Neuroscience Initiatives
All across the world, scientists are working towards greater understandings of the brain’s function and responses to injury or disease. Their work entails the invention of neurotechnologies for continuing their innovative research, in order to help treat brain injury, disease, and disorders.
Here are organizations dedicated to advancing the science of the brain, and its application to improving human health.
Initiatives in the United States
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, announced by President Barack Obama April 2, 2013, will enable federal agencies and private-sector partners to develop tools and plans that will help accelerate fundamental discoveries and improve the health and quality of life for millions.
On Sept. 30, 2014, the White House held a conference on the BRAIN Initiative. New public and private BRAIN Initiative funding partners were announced. To learn more:
- Read about the funding partners and proposed projects.
- Watch a video of neuroscientists, funding agency representatives, and others discussing the progress and future directions of the BRAIN Initiative.
The overarching goal of NIH’s contribution to the BRAIN Initiative is to map the circuits of the brain and the activity within those circuits to understand our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. NIH is focused on developing technologies that have the potential to benefit all of neuroscience and even non-neuroscience research.
- The Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Working Group released an interim report in September 2013.
- BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision was released by the BRAIN Working Group on June 5, 2014.
- On Sept. 30, 2014, NIH announced its first set of BRAIN Initiative Awards, totaling $46 million for 2014. The investments cover 58 projects involving more than 100 investigators from 15 states and several countries. Collectively, these projects seek to develop new technologies and methods “to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action.”
The NSF portion of the BRAIN Initiative aims to integrate across scales (e.g., genes to behavior) and disciplines (e.g., engineering and life sciences) to establish predictive theories of brain structure and function, and to use these theories to maintain and restore the healthy brain. It has a strong focus on technology and cyber tool development and the training of new generations of scientists to use the resources that emerge from the BRAIN Initiative.
- NSF has launched a new portal called Understanding the Brain dedicated to the agency’s activities associated with the BRAIN Initiative
- NSF funded 35 Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals that seek to develop new technologies to further our ability to study and understand brain function.
- NSF will invest in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research related to the BRAIN Initiative through a call for research on Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems and through an Idea Labs workshop.
DARPA seeks to develop a new understanding of complex, systems-based disorders of the brain. DARPA supports five programs as a part of this initiative: Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS); Restoring Active Memory (RAM); Neuro-Function, Activity, Structure, and Technology (Neuro-Fast); Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX); and ElectRX.
- SUBNETS is pursuing advances in neuroscience and neurotechnology that could lead to new clinical understanding of how neuropsychological illnesses manifest in the brain and to advanced therapies, such as deep brain stimulation, to reduce the burden and severity of illness.
- The RAM program will develop new methods for analysis and decoding of neural signals in order to understand how neural stimulation could be applied to facilitate the recovery of memory encoding following brain injury.
- Neuro-Fast is working to decode brain activity and neuronal firing to understand the structure and behavior of neural networks.
- HAPTIX seeks to enhance motor control and restore proprioception and sensation of touch in prosthetic users.
- ElectRX studies the peripheral nervous system, examining if targeted stimulation of the system could lead to new treatments for illness or promote self-healing.
IARPA was announced as a partner in the BRAIN Initiative on Sept. 30, 2014. IARPA will use multidisciplinary techniques to advance understanding of cognition and computation in the brain. Several projects and programs will be sponsored and executed in FY2015.
- Integrated Cognitive-Neuroscience Architectures for Understanding Sensemaking (ICArUS), which uses models to understand how the human brain is able to make sense of sparse, ambiguous data.
- The Knowledge Representation in Neural Systems (KRNS) program will examine how the brain represents conceptual knowledge.
- The Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-Solving (SHARP) program will develop neural interventions for optimizing reasoning and problem-solving.
- The Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) program will seek to improve machine learning by collecting information from cortical microcircuits, and using the brain’s algorithms to create computational neural models.
The FDA was announced as a partner in the BRAIN Initiative on Sept. 30, 2014. The FDA seeks to increase the transparency of the regulatory process for developers of new neurological medical devices and technologies.
- The FDA held a public workshop in November 2014 on Brain Computer-Interface devices. View videos and information about the workshop »
The BRAIN Initiative has involved nine private-sector partners:
- Allen Institute for Brain Science
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Kavli Foundation
- Salk Institute for Biological Studies
- National Photonics Initiative
Private Research Efforts
Several universities and foundations are aligning over $240 million of their research interests with the BRAIN Initiative, including:
- University of Pittsburgh
- The Simons Foundation
- The Carnegie Mellon University
- University of Texas System
- University of California, Berkeley in connection with Carl Zeiss Microscopy
- University of Utah
- Boston University
- The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
- The Children’s Neurobiological Solutions Foundation
- The Pacific Northwest Neuroscience Neighborhood
- The Neurotechnology Architecting Network
European Commission’s Human Brain Project
The goal of the 10-year Human Brain Project is to build a new information computing technology infrastructure for neuroscience and for brain-related research in medicine and computing. It will include six platforms: neuroinformatics, brain stimulation, performance computing, medical informatics, neuromorphic computing, and neurorobotics. Read more.
Two Japanese research organizations, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, will join forces with a large European consortium on the Human Brain Project. OIST will contribute to the development of the Brain Simulation Platform, a major software infrastructure effort. RIKEN will contribute to the identification of the brain structures’ underlying mental capabilities.
Japan has launched a brain-mapping project using marmosets as part of a ten year Brain/MINDS project. The goals of this project are to improve understanding of human higher brain function, to improve diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, and to develop novel cutting-edge technologies. As part of this project, transgenic marmosets are being created to help map the structure and activity of the entire marmoset brain.
The project received the equivalent of $27 million funding for the first year, with a likely increase for the second year and beyond. The work will be divided into three groups — one at Keio University, one at RIKEN Brain Science Institute, and the third at University of Tokyo.
Israel Brain Technologies
To build on Israel’s strengths in technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and excellence in neuroscience, Israel Brain Technologies is launching programs aimed at supporting multidisciplinary collaboration to facilitate the commercialization process for neurotechnologies. More specifically, IBT will focus on developing the brain machine interface and neurostimulation devices.
The report, Inspiring Smarter Brain Research in Australia, called for an investment of $250 million over 10 years into interdisciplinary projects to understand the human brain. It suggests focusing on four research areas: cognition and intelligence, neurogenetics, artificial intelligence, and aging and dementia.
The Chinese Academy of Science have launched a brain science center in Shanghai.