The dentate gyrus of the mouse hippocampus using Brainbow transgenes. This technology, developed by researchers at Harvard University, uses genetic methods to label individual nerve cells in different colors to identify and track axons and dendrites over long distances. (Credit: Jeff Lichtman)
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, launched by President Obama in 2013, aims to advance the science and technologies needed to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. It is a broad, collaborative effort to accelerate the development and application of a new generation of tools to study how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. These new technologies will help scientists explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores and retrieves information and will illuminate the complex links between brain structure, function and behavior.
A working group convened by the National Institutes of Health, one of four federal agencies partnering on the BRAIN Initiative, identified seven priority areas for brain research, from identifying the diversity of cell types in the brain to advancing human neuroscience. To achieve breakthroughs in these areas, the BRAIN Initiative is funding interdisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers from many disciplines and sectors.
In addition to the federal agencies, The BRAIN Initiative’s partners include private foundations (including The Kavli Foundation), research institutes, universities and industry.
From the cultural to the technical, neuroscience is handicapped by barriers that prevent researchers from sharing data. Three researchers – Christof Koch, Karel Svoboda and Jeff Teeters – discuss a new initiative to dismantle those barriers, Neurodata Without Borders.
To understand the language of the brain, we will need to monitor thousands and then tens and even hundreds of thousands of neurons networked across the brain. Nanotechnology promises to make this – and more – possible.
In 2011, neuroscientists and nanoscientists had an idea for revolutionizing our understanding the brain. Now that idea is a national challenge, as President Obama's BRAIN Initiative seeks to decipher the neural code that gives rise to our perceptions and experience.