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Fed Funds New Project to Map the Brain

Jun 06, 2014 03:17 PM EDT

A federal initiative in the works is dedicated to mapping activity of the human brain - pushing for a better scientific understanding of how the brain functions. Now, a federal report is calling for billions in funding over the next 12 years for new research.

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative presented its long-term goals as part of a 12-year plan on Thursday to Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and his advisory committee.

Collins applauded this plan, calling the report "bold and game changing," according to a NIH press release.

"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 21st century," Collins said. "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 - which was crafted by the BRAIN Initiative, a new presidential project launched in collaboration with the NIH - recommends a sustained federal commitment of $4.5 billion to specified brain research over the next 12 years, starting in 2016.

According to the report, this commitment will allow the initiative to effectively persue seven specific goals that will help researchers understand the brain and develop new treatment options.

Critics are already weighing in, complaining of the cost of the endeavor, which has already received an NIH investment of $40 million this fiscal year, with another $100 million from the NIH proposed by President Obama for the 2015 budget.

Collins, whose organization will primarily fund the effort, has simply shrugged off these complaints.

To ensure that the NIH funded project is within reason, the report also details a number of core principles that it will have to respect. One of these principles requires the BRAIN project to "create mechanisms to ensure accountability to the NIH, the taxpayer, and the community of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscientists." Another will "consider the ethical implications of neuroscience research."

"It won't be fast, it won't be easy and it won't be cheap," Collins told the New York Times Thursday. "[But] it will be a pretty exciting ride."

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