There is no exaggeration to be made when it comes to stating that human brains are extraordinary organs. No other brain in the animal kingdom is capable of generating the kind of higher consciousness that is associated with human ingenuity, with our ability to make plans and write poetry, which is so unique. It is, however, more mysterious than the least explored regions of the deepest oceans in the entire universe – as is often described. This is despite the fact that it is the most complex structure in the universe.
Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative was funded twice during the Obama administration. He viewed it as the Apollo mission of his time.
Though the initiative is small by government standards, it aims to accelerate the development of innovative technologies that could change human brain science radically. It could have enormous practical benefits, given how few effective treatments exist for a wide range of brain disorders, including childhood autism and senile dementia.
The majority of brain studies until recently were either focused on examining the gross changes caused by head injuries or tumours, or on measuring oxygen and glucose consumption in healthy brains. In the past, neuroscientists have explored the brain's mysterious landscape with limited success. New techniques, however, are generating great excitement among scientists. Among them is the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which is funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, and has produced a so-called “transcriptome” of the human developing brain, a so-called transcriptome, that tracks the activity of genes as they are turned on and off while in the womb. As a result, advances in computer science, mathematical analysis, and the visualisation of data are also transforming the way we study the living brain. Instead of just listening to the individual instruments in the brain's orchestra, we can now listen to the whole symphony.
Despite this, the task is immense. The human brain contains roughly 100 billion nerve cells (more than the stars of the Milky Way combined). They are all connected to about 10,000 others, so they can connect to 100 trillion nerves. Human brain neurons could wrap around the Earth twice if they were laid end to end. It's like unravelling the genome, for example, when it comes to understanding this most complex organ.
Nevertheless, we should commend and encourage the scientific quest, regardless of whether it is funded by public funds or private funds, as Mr Allen did. It is poetic that we are able to do so with computers generated by the brain – we cannot afford to ignore the brain and its mysteries. In addition to offering much-needed treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and developmental disorders, this research will also shed light on that great imponderable, the human mind.
Regardless of whether the initiative comes from a public purse, thanks to the likes of Mr Obama, or private funding, thanks to the likes of Mr Allen, the scientific quest should be applauded and encouraged. It is simply too important to leave the brain and its mysteries unexplored – and there is something poetic about it being done with computers. Not only will we be able to treat development disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, but we will also learn something about the human mind itself.
Back in 2013, during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas... Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy... Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s… Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.” -
As of today (04/09/2022 00:02) I've tried to narrow down any information if Joe Biden has said in regards to this, but I have not found any quote from him. ̶B̶u̶t̶,̶ ̶I̶ ̶g̶u̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶'̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶e̶t̶t̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶l̶e̶t̶'̶s̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶p̶e̶o̶p̶l̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶.̶.̶.̶.̶w̶e̶l̶l̶.̶.̶.̶.̶a̶ ̶b̶r̶a̶i̶n̶.̶ ̶
The features of this BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) sound promising.
Through 2021, NIH has made over 1100 awards to hundreds of investigators, totalling ~£2.0 billion. Given the cross-cutting nature of this project, the NIH BRAIN Initiative is managed by the 10 ICs whose missions and current research portfolios align with the goals of the BRAIN Initiative
1a. Scientific Goal: Identify and provide experimental access to the different brain cell types to determine their roles in health and disease. The information below is extremely short as we are merely ponder, head over to BRAIN 2025 Report | Brain Initiative (nih.gov) to check out the whole 2025 report. Read further to ponder.
1b. Overall Objective
The mammalian brain contains ~108 (mouse) - 1011 (human) neurons. These neurons are not homogeneous, but consist of diverse subpopulations with genetically, anatomically, physiologically, and connectionally distinct properties. Defining these cell types and their functions in different brain regions, and providing methods for experimental access to them in a variety of animals and in humans is essential to generating a comprehensive understanding of neural circuit function.
A census of neuronal and glial cell types in key brain regions using multiple analysis modalities (the “parts list”), and an intellectual framework for cell type classification. The modalities of interest include (but are not limited to) transcriptional/protein profiling, electrophysiological recording, cellular anatomy, and connectivity. This information is fundamental because it will provide knowledge that is essential to a deep understanding of neural coding and computation.
Experimental access to defined neuronal and glial subpopulations, and tools for cell type-specific connectivity mapping, recording, and modulation. By “access,” we mean ways to target reporters, indicators, and effectors to a desired neuronal or glial subpopulation. In the short- to intermediate-term, this will likely involve genetic methods. This enabling technology will allow analysis of meso-scale connectivity, functional (causal) manipulations, and electrophysiological or optical recording of activity to be linked to each other at the level of a defined cell type. In humans, experimental access will provide a route to novel targeted therapies for neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Among the scientific questions to be addressed by this goal:
How many cell types exist in the brain, to a first approximation?
Is there a basic organizational logic to cell type diversity throughout the brain?
Do well-defined cell types shape neural circuit function to a greater extent in some brain regions than in others?
What level of granularity of cell type definition is required for understanding the function of a given neural circuit?
Can we target specific human cell types to develop new therapies for neurological and psychiatric disorders?
We recommend that the initial stages of this project be focused on obtaining an inventory with molecular, anatomical, and electrophysiological descriptions of all of the cell types in several selected brain regions of organisms such as C. elegans, Drosophila, zebrafish, mouse, and non-human primate, as well as the development of tools for genetic access to all of these cells. These organisms and brain regions would be prioritized based on their interest to large communities of neuroscience researchers and their relevance to human disease. This strategy would identify challenges and opportunities for iterative tactical improvements in technology and process.
Example brain regions for initial analysis in the mouse:
Retina. The retina is the region in which the most progress has been made in the characterization of different cell types, and in the generation of reagents to provide access to those cell types. It therefore has the greatest chance of being completed within a 3-5 year period, and could serve as a flagship project for The BRAIN Initiative®. It is relevant to the fields of vision, general sensory and signal processing, and to clinical issues including neurodegenerative diseases and vision disorders.
Spinal cord. This spinal cord is another area in which a great deal of progress has been made in the identification of different cell types. It is important for understanding the control of locomotion and the function of central pattern generators, and to human neurological disorders such as paralysis, traumatic spinal injury, chronic pain, and motor neuron degenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Hippocampus. This area is an intense focus of basic neuroscience research into learning, memory, and spatial navigation, and is important to human memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Striatum. This area is a focus of neuroscience research in movement control, reward, motivation, and decision-making. It is highly relevant to addiction and to movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
Amygdala/Hypothalamus. These interconnected regions are a focus of basic neuroscience research into fear, anxiety, feeding, and social behaviours. They are of central concern for psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders, and for obesity and eating disorders.
Prefrontal cortex. The cerebral cortex is highly developed in humans compared to other animals, and the prefrontal cortex in particular is associated with human decision-making, cognition, and emotional behaviours. Its functions are disrupted in schizophrenia and dementia.
Implement solutions to the spike sorting, information encoding, connectivity and information decoding problems that are needed for confirmatory statistical analyses of 100,000 to 1,000,000 simultaneously recorded neurons121. 100,000 neurons have been recorded in the transparent larval zebrafish75. Increasing the number of neurons recorded at a particular temporal resolution can be used as a metric for progress.
At later stages, as technology evolves to increase the throughput of descriptive analysis, the census of cell types should be expanded to additional brain regions and species, including humans. More over at BRAIN 2025 Report | Brain Initiative (nih.gov)