What is the BRAIN Initiative?

The NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.

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Posted on February 5, 2014

POTUS Bioethics Commission Requesting Public Comments on Neuroscience Research

When the President launched the BRAIN Initiative in April 2013, he charged his Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues with exploring the ethical, legal, and societal implications raised by both this research initiative and other recent advances in neuroscience to ensure that this research progresses responsibly. The Commission is currently encouraging the public to weigh in on these topics and individuals interested in submitting comments should refer to the announcement recently posted in the Federal Register.


12 comments to POTUS Bioethics Commission Requesting Public Comments on Neuroscience Research

  • William Cott

    I understand that N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine a Precursor of Glutathione is of Great Benefit to the Brain. It forms a lining on the bottom of brain against Excitotoxins is this true?

  • Linda

    Established as part of the 1974 National Research Act, the National Commission is best known for the Belmont Report. It identified fundamental principles for research involving human volunteers and was the basis of subsequent federal regulation…

  • Lisa Hammermeister

    I have Primary Progressive MS and hopefully studying the brain will lead to a cure.

  • John LaMuth

    This latest announcement proves ironic, being as there does not appear to have been any feedback to the public from the brain initiative administration. Indeed, CB similarly and earlier asks “I am curious if any of the principle brain experts read these comments. If so, where does one find their replies?”
    The most egregious ethical objection, however, relates to insufficient attention to the main stated aim of the initiative; namely, the discovery of breakthrough new insights into the neurosciences. You would think that such an initiative would permit at least one RFA call for proposals in relation to breakthrough theoretical approaches, such as outlined on my own website – forebrain.org rather, the incremental approach that appears to be favored defeats the ambitious spirit proposed by Pres. Obama, and proves to be a significant letdown not only to taxpayers who expect ambitious results, but also those suffering from neurological disorders that are denied the benefits of potential cures that are thwarted by the glacial pace of the initiative currently administered by the NIH.– POTUS should be alerted to this.

  • John LaMuth

    Please enter into consideration **towards the discovery of breakthrough new insights into the neurosciences** the 1st Periodic Table for the Human Forebrain; which enjoys similar advantages to the dramatic influence that the Periodic Table of the Elements has enjoyed with respect to Chemistry and Physics. This respective neural counterpart imparts a crucial sense of systematic order and purpose to the complex state of affairs currently within the neurosciences. The cerebral cortex represents the most logical initiation point for such an innovation, celebrated as the crowning culmination of human forebrain evolution. This radical expansion of the neocortex is observed to occur in a discrete pattern suggestively termed cortical growth rings. The general pattern of neural evolution specifies that older structures are periodically modified to create newer functional areas, with the precursor circuitry also preserved, all persisting side by side. The stepwise repetition of these processes over the course of mammalian evolution ultimately accounts for the six sequential age levels of cortical evolution, schematically depicted at forebrain.org . The diagram shown there depicts the entire surface of the cortex folded flat so that the medial and sub-temporal surfaces are fully exposed.
    Here, the two fundamental variables defining forebrain evolution are the parameters of phylogenetic age and input specificity. Sanides (1972) proposed that the human cortex evolved as a sequence of five concentric growth rings comprising a medio-lateral hemisphere gradient. Furthermore, the interoceptive, exteroceptive and proprioceptive input categories each project to their own four-part complex of cortical bands that (when taken collectively) define an antero-posterior hemisphere gradient. The para-coronal variable of phylogenetic age is plotted as the ordinate and the para-sagittal parameter of input specificity charted as the abscissa in a Cartesian coordinate system. Each cortical area described by Brodmann and von Economo corresponds to schematically unique age/input parameter coordinates. Furthermore, each affiliated thalamic nucleus of specific age and input coordinates projects principally to that cortical area comprising identical pair-coordinate values, implying that the evolution of both the dorsal thalamus and the cortex are similarly defined in terms of the specifics for the dual parameter grid.

  • Gerhard Mensch, Ph.D.

    I think John LaMuth’s point (breakthrough approach vs. incremental approach) of 2/11 deserves a timely reply.
    Being on record for having coined the distinction bet- ween “basic innovations” and “improvement innovations” in the 1970s, I can clearly identify the first two of the six announced funding opportunities (cell and cir- cuit typology) as at least “major” and not “minor” im- provements. The 3rd and 4th RFPs call for breakthrough innovations in testing and speeding-up. And the 5th is inviting a “barrier breaking.” The sixth announcement actually says that “incremental improvements” in brain imaging will not be funded.

  • shady

    How can i join such research or participate in any position

  • Peter Whitehouse MD-PhD

    Interested in where the ethical issues about BRAIN (President Obama’s new initiative) are being considered within and outside the project since they say they prioritize the ELSI issues highly? Also wondering if the European Concept of Responsible Innovation is affecting North American deliberations. Thanks, Peter

  • Darrell Ernst

    I just read the article BRAIN Shot in 22 Feb Science News. Some emphasis was placed on the need for a catchy phrase or name for the initiative. There is only one name or variation on a theme that fits: Fantastic Voyage or the Incredible Journey or variation thereof.

  • Michael Ricciardi

    Is there a place here for the exploration and/or application of (non-specifically brain-related) theoretical models (e.g., network models, population/infrastructure growth models, epidemiological models) to the dynamics of small/medium/large-scale brain processes?

    It would seem highly useful or worthwhile, at this early stage of the brain game, to invite inter and trans-disciplinary researchers to propose simulation/modeling initiatives/experiments (as with the European HBP) to investigate their utility in helping understand such things as neural network building, (inter)connectivity (vis a vis the ‘connectome’), transmission/information conveyance (thought/data propagation in one or more interconnected neural networks), modular – whole brain communication, and more.

    Instead of focusing SOLELY on developing new methods or technologies, what about exploring existing theoretical and computational models/paradigms and technologies/tools — developed in other disciplines — and their applicability/utility for this current BRAIN project mission?

    This could, in the short to medium term, be a cost-saving approach, and could likely yield novel applications that spur new or extended research foci and ‘next gen’ innovation (and avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ under a different name or configuration).

  • Etta albright

    As a non academic concerned about the use of prisons to warehouse individuals with undiagnosed and untreated brain and neuro cognitive impairments (aka mental illness) I question whose and what needs will be met by limiting any BRAIN initiative to neurologists? What about those at The Institute For Brain Potential? Dr Copeland’s WRAP program? While learning more about how things work, for the sake of those afflicted you need to work with things that are proving to make a difference. How come The Amen Clinic, Washington, DC claims to be able to treat brain and neuro cognitive disorders by using brain imaging already available?

    A Residential Brain and Neuro Cognitive Health Research and Resource Center is needed where science, research and knowledge can be applied to address behaviors leading to the extreme of unhealthy dependency (imprisonment) and realistically be able to treat, support and coach those with hope of reaching a more independent healthy lifestyle based on their brain/neuro cognitive capacity to do so. The recently closed Cresson Secure Correctional Institution, Cresson, PA could provide a place for such a Center.

    A number of concerns arose while reading about the BRAIN initiative in the Feb 2014 Science News; without a goal established the research could turn into a Hitler like project for the perfect controlling race. Because Brain/neuro cognitive functioning = lifestyles and choices, for me educating and being educated based on understanding of ones attributes, propensities and adversities to live as independent healthy lifestyle without harming or being harmed within one’s demonstrated capacity to do so is a great contribution to humanity.

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