The White House is investing big in brain science.
What will that mean for psychology?
BY LEA WINERMAN • Monitor staff
In April, President Obama announced a $110 million ational investment in new research to better understand the human brain. The aim of the ambitious project —
called the BRAIN Initiative — is to learn more about our
approximately 100 billion brain cells, the connections among
them and how they relate to our behavior and our health.
be involved as well, such as the Allen Institute for Brain Science.
The funding is part of the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget
and will require congressional approval.
The initiative has been compared with the Human Genome
Project, another “big science” collaboration that, over about a
decade, mapped every gene that makes up human DNA. But the
BRAIN initiative has an even more daunting task: Human DNA
is made up of about 25,000 genes, far fewer than the brain’s
billions of neurons. And unlike the Human Genome Project, the
BRAIN initiative does not have an obvious end point — what
does it mean, precisely, to understand or map the brain?
Right now, researchers are working to answer that question.
In May, NIH convened a 15-person advisory panel, led by
neuroscientists Cori Bargmann, PhD, of Rockefeller University,
and William Newsome, PhD, of Stanford University, to begin
mapping out the NIH part of the project’s goals and timelines.
The same week, NSF gathered 150 researchers to discuss similar
questions. The initiative will involve neuroscientists as well as
physicists, computer scientists and others who are developing