Human Brain Activity Map Project

neural progenitor cells in the brainAn MRI scan reveals the gross anatomical structure of the human brain.
Credit: Courtesy FONAR Corporation

The scientists argue that the project would help develop technology such as nanoscale neural probes that could be used in the clinical treatment of brain problems. If successful, the project could also help explain the origins of autism, schizophrenia, dementia and depression. Additionally, it could lead to new treatments for stroke, spinal cord injury and other neurological diseases, they wrote.

Money and criticism

Yuste declined to give an expected price tag for the project, saying that funding decisions are up to funding agencies (the scientists expect a mix of public and private funding). However, the project's advocates compare the Brain Activity Map to the Human Genome Project, which cost $3.8 billion over 13 years.

That economic number comes from a report commissioned by the Life Technologies Foundation and conducted by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, which found the benefits in genomics-related employment and subsequent tax revenue. Larger-scale benefits in the form of technological impacts on medicine, agriculture and other fields are only just beginning, the report concluded.

"I think the best medicine at a time like this is to propose ideas like BAM, to energize the troops, so to speak, " he said.

Not all the troops in neuroscience are energized, however. The mapping project has come under criticism for its focus on functional circuitry as opposed to anatomy, and for having a more nebulous end goal than the Human Genome Project's simple "Map the human genome."

MRI of a human brain, sagittal slice. "I don't think that their particular approach of trying to map the brain through imaging is really necessarily the way that's the best reflection of what is actually going on in the brain, " said Don Stein, director of the Brain Research Laboratory at the Emory University School of Medicine, who has been critical of the project. "They're making a huge gamble."

The brain is so plastic, re-writing circuits in response to environmental changes, Stein told LiveScience, that any map would be unreliable and ungeneralizable to larger contexts. He and other neuroscientists also worry that the brain project will pull resources from other worthy neuroscience causes.

"Do you put everything into this kind of 'moonshot' approach at the expense of everything else?" he said.

Yuste argues that BAM will benefit neuroscientists across the board. He envisions "brain observatories" where scientists in any brain field could come and use the neural circuit-monitoring tools on projects of their own.

"I think a lot of these people view the BAM as a zero-sum game, and they want to protect their own field, without realizing this is a positive-sum game, " he said of critics. "To understand the brain, we need the anatomical pathways, but crucially, we need to know the function of the circuits. It's hard to argue against gathering new knowledge."

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Q&A

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What is the most epic project in human history?

One would be the Manhattan Project, which led to the first atomic bomb and the ability to utilize nuclear energy.  Whether good or bad, I think it fits the definition of an epic human discovery.

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QUIZ: What was the first international aid project in recorded human history? | Yahoo Answers

I am sure you could go back further than that...
The first empires build by ancient egyptians
passed on religion goods and aide to their citizens
Even further back than that Nomadic Central Asian
Tribes were extremely gregarious and often granted
gifts and aid to neighboring nations.

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Which construction project in human history claimed the most lives in the process of building it

unanswerable, I doubt the builders of the pyramids or the great wall kept such records and if so are lost to the ravages of time or are only estimates such as in the atrocities of the Burma railway that were suffered, etc

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