Human Brain map 2013

To map the human brain

US President Barack Obama today officially launched an ambitious multi-year project to probe the human brain in action. In a preview of his 2014 budget request, expected next week, he said he would ask Congress for about US$100 million to get the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative off the ground.

The ambitious plan, originally dubbed the Brain Activity Map, created a buzz when word of it crept out ahead of schedule in February. With big backers in the White House, such as Tom Kalil at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (see ‘Behind the scenes of a brain-mapping moon shot‘), it seemed as though the project had the chance of becoming a signature administration initiative. This morning in the grand East Room of the White House, Obama left little doubt of that, comparing the BRAIN Initiative to the US quest to put a man on the Moon and calling it “the next great American project”.

Between our ears, he said, “there is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked, and the BRAIN Initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action.”

Current technology allows scientists to record the activity of up to hundreds of neurons in action. The BRAIN Initiative aspires to map the function of thousands or hundreds of thousands of neurons simultaneously, as they function at the speed of thought. Obama acknowledged the difficulties involved, but said: “Think about what we could do once we do crack this code.” He imagined an amputee playing the piano or throwing a baseball, people fully recovering after a stroke or traumatic brain injury and cures for autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Q&A

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On grey's anatomy, when does derek shepherd map out a diagram of the human brain on the bedroom wall?

Using Meredith's bedroom wall, Derek explained to Meredith how he will perform the surgery to Izzie Stevens.

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