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BRAIN Initiative: New call to action amidst growing skepticism

humanconnectomeA White House Call To Action to Advance the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive (press release):

Under this ini­tia­tive, Fed­er­al agen­cies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH), the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF), and the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) are sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment and appli­ca­tion of inno­v­a­tive, new tech­nolo­gies that can cre­ate a dynam­ic under­stand­ing of brain func­tion and its rela­tion­ship to behav­ior.…Giv­en the auda­cious nature of this goal, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has called for the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive to be an “all hands on deck” effort, involv­ing not only the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment but also com­pa­nies, health sys­tems, patient advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions, phil­an­thropists, state gov­ern­ments, research uni­ver­si­ties, pri­vate research insti­tutes, and sci­en­tif­ic soci­eties. Lat­er this year, the White House will hold an event to fea­ture the role of these orga­ni­za­tions in achiev­ing the President’s bold vision.”

BRAIN SHOT: Neu­ro­sci­en­tists scram­ble to take on an ambi­tious pres­i­den­tial chal­lenge (Sci­ence News):

So when Pres­i­dent Oba­ma announced an ambi­tious plan to under­stand the brain in April 2013, peo­ple were quick to view it as the next Man­hat­tan Project, or Human Genome Project, or moon shot. But these analo­gies may not be so apt. Com­pared with under­stand­ing the mys­te­ri­ous inner work­ings of the brain, those oth­er endeav­ors start­ed with an end in sight. It’s not clear, for instance, how var­i­ous govern­ment agen­cies and pri­vate insti­tu­tions involved in the project will coor­di­nate their efforts. Nor is it clear how the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive will relate to the Euro­pean Union’s $1.3 bil­lion Human Brain Project. Some sci­en­tists say the BRAIN Initiative’s ini­tial fund­ing is too pal­try to make real progress and that future fund­ing is a polit­i­cal uncertainty…Perhaps most unset­tling, the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive has no defin­i­tive goal. Unlike mush­room clouds, a col­lec­tion of moon rocks or the soft­ware for a human being, the BRAIN project envi­sions no tan­gi­ble result, many sci­en­tists say. “It isn’t clear what vic­to­ry will look like on this project,” says Thomas Insel, direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Men­tal Health in Bethes­da, Md. “I think peo­ple have to be com­fort­able with that.”

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