Brain research goals laid out

NIH details priority areas, including improving imaging technology and mapping brain structures

NIH’s preliminary attack plan for unlocking the mysteries of the human brain was presented September 16. The plan, developed by neuroscientists and approved by Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, outlines the shape of the newly created BRAIN Initiative (SN Online: 4/2/13), an ambitious project designed to deepen the understanding of the brain.

The nine BRAIN Initiative goals span multiple levels of inquiry from single brain cells to larger groups of neurons and entire brains.

NIH and other funders will sponsor experiments that attempt to tally the gaggle of brain cell types, create a map that shows brain structures and link certain sorts of brain activity to specific behaviors. Other goals aim to improve the technology that enables scientists to eavesdrop on working brain cells and eventually to control those cells.

The BRAIN Initiative will also sponsor work to improve the infrastructure of neuroscience by bringing together scientists with different expertise, creating better ways to collect human data for research and spreading knowledge and training. In fiscal year 2014, $40 million from NIH is slated to go toward these research priorities.

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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