The NIH has announced its third round of grants to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, bringing NIH’s total fiscal year 2016 investment to just over $150 million.
“In only three years we’ve already seen exciting new advances in neuroscience research come out of the BRAIN Initiative,” said Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Over one hundred new awards, totaling more than $70 million, will go to over 170 investigators working at 60 institutions. These awards expand NIH’s efforts to develop new tools and technologies to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action. Projects include proposals to develop computer programs that may help researchers detect and diagnose autism and Alzheimer’s disease from brain scans, build a cap that uses ultrasound waves to precisely stimulate brain cells, create a “neural dust” system made of tiny electric sensors for wirelessly recording brain activity, improve current rehabilitation technologies for helping the lives of stroke patients, and study how the brain reads and speaks.
“This year, more projects will be based, at least in part, on data from humans,” added Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIH's National Institute of Mental Health. “Some of these projects are aimed at fine-tuning brain stimulation and other promising technologies for the treatment of mental illnesses.”
In 2013, President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative as a large-scale effort to equip researchers with insights necessary for treating a wide variety of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The World Health Organization estimates that devastating brain disorders affect more than one billion people worldwide.
“There are very few effective cures for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders,” said Dr. Koroshetz. “By pushing the boundaries of fundamental neuroscience research, NIH BRAIN Initiative scientists are providing the insights researchers will need to develop 21st century treatments.”
The NIH component of the BRAIN Initiative is guided by the long-term scientific plan, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision, which emphasized an early investment in basic neuroscience research. Over the past two years, NIH BRAIN Initiative funded researchers have produced several breakthroughs and published over 125 academic research articles.