News / Science & Technology

Obama Announces Plan to Map Human Brain

 President Barack Obama announces the BRAIN Initiative - Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies - in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 2, 2013.
President Barack Obama announces the BRAIN Initiative - Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies - in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 2, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama has launched a scientific research initiative aimed at demystifying the workings of the human brain.

The president described the human brain as one of the great frontiers of human discovery.

“As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, study particles smaller than an atom, but we still have not unlocked the mystery of the three pounds [1.5 kilos] of matter that sits between our ears,” he said.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said he will propose $100 million for research to unlock the mystery. The funds are to go to the nation’s leading research institutions for collaboration with private companies and charitable foundations.

The project aims to understand how the interactions among the billions of neurons in the human brain form our thoughts, memories and movements. The benefits could reach billions of people worldwide.

“Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s, or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. What if computers could respond to our thoughts, or language barriers could come tumbling down?” said Obama.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said a “dream team” of top minds in brain research will lay out the project’s priorities.

Unraveling the hugely complex network of billions of neural connections and their function will require tools and technology that do not yet exist. But Collins said their development may itself produce benefits.

“People are quite excited about what we can learn about how the brain does what it does, which may teach us new kinds of architectures that can be the next design principle for the computers of the future. So, the computers are going to serve us by analyzing and storing the data, but we may also maybe make them obsolete by figuring out new ways to design better ones,” said Collins.

The opportunity for innovation is at the heart of the brain-mapping initiative. With budget-slashing the order of the day in Washington, the president says the program is a wise investment in America’s future. He said each dollar spent on sequencing the human genome returned $140 to the economy, and he expects this project will have similar benefit.

“We cannot afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead," said Obama. "We have to seize them. I do not want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here. And that is part of what this BRAIN Initiative is about.”

Support for the initiative is not unanimous among researchers. Some skeptics say rather than focusing on a core set of issues, scientists should pursue a broad research agenda and follow where it leads.

Collins said it is the right idea, though, to think big.

“There is nothing like a project of this sort to inspire people to go to that next level. And we hope that we will recruit into this effort some of the best and brightest, all kinds of bright brains that might otherwise have done something else, to come and solve those problems,” he said.

Researchers say the initiative is not likely to produce immediate cures for diseases. Much of the research likely will focus first on animal studies, before moving on to humans.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama T-SITE, JPN
April 06, 2013 7:55 PM
I'm just wondering how many people are suffering of Parkinson's? 1% of world population? Under 0.1% of world population?
Why do you have war beterans who has traumatic brain injury?
That's because you do wars worldwide.
Do you really want computers to respond our thoughts?

Are these the purpose to use $100M ?

It is just a political porpose, not for help people.


by: Thisheart from: Sellersburg, IN
April 02, 2013 5:21 PM
We're in trillions of debt, but by all means lets give the mad scientists some bucks to torture animals and find new ways to control human minds - Lord knows we wouldn't want the Chinese to beat us to it. I think we've been part of a BRAINLESS Initiative in this country for some time.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid