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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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