NIH embraces 12-year scientific vision for BRAIN Initiative
A federal report calls for $4.5 billion in funding for brain research over the next 12 years. The long-term scientific vision of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was presented to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., by his Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). Collins accepted the recommendations, calling the report bold and game changing.
“How the brain works and gives rise to our mental and intellectual lives will be the most exciting and challenging area of science in the 21 century,” said Collins. “As a result of this concerted effort, new technologies will be invented, new industries spawned and new treatments and even cures discovered for devastating disorders and diseases of the brain and nervous system.”
The report drafted by the ACD BRAIN Working Group maps out a sustained commitment of $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016 to achieve seven primary goals. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014 and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH’s component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget.
The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. The following scientific goals were identified as high priorities for achieving this vision:
- Identify and provide experimental access to the different brain cell types to determine their roles in health and disease
- Generate circuit diagrams that vary in resolution from synapses to the whole brain
- Produce a dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity
- Link brain activity to behavior with precise interventional tools that change neural circuit dynamics
- Produce conceptual foundations for understanding the biological basis of mental processes through development of new theoretical and data analysis tools
- Develop innovative technologies to understand the human brain and treat its disorders
- Create and support integrated brain research networks
- Integrate new technological and conceptual approaches produced in the other goals to discover how dynamic patterns of neural activity are transformed into cognition, emotion, perception and action in health and disease.
These scientific goals will be maximized through seven core principles:
- Pursue human studies and non-human models in parallel
- Cross boundaries in interdisciplinary collaborations
- Integrate spatial and temporal scales
- Establish platforms for preserving and sharing data
- Validate and disseminate technology
- Consider ethical implications of neuroscience research
- Create mechanisms to ensure accountability to the NIH, the taxpayer and the community of basic, translational and clinical neuroscientists
The Working Group outlined an investment ramping up to $400 million a year for fiscal years 2016-2020 to focus on technology development and validation. They called for $500 million a year for years 2020-2025 to increasingly focus on the application of those technologies in an integrated fashion to make fundamental new discoveries about the brain. The working group emphasized that its cost estimates assume that the budget for the BRAIN Initiative will supplement—not supplant—NIH’s existing investment in the broader spectrum of basic, translational and clinical neuroscience research.
“While these estimates are provisional and subject to congressional appropriations, they represent a realistic estimate of what will be required for this moon shot initiative,” said Collins. “As the Human Genome Project did with precision medicine, the BRAIN Initiative promises to transform the way we prevent and treat devastating brain diseases and disorders, while also spurring economic development.”
In December 2013, NIH announced six funding opportunities in response to high priority areas identified by the BRAIN Working Group. Awards are expected to be announced in September.
The BRAIN Initiative is jointly led by NIH, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and the FDA. Private organizations also are committed to ensuring success through investment in the initiative.