Human Brain Project VS Brain Initiative

By Sara Reardon and Nature magazine | March 19, 2014 Brain illustration

The US brain-research program aims to create tools to image and control brain activity, while its European counterpart hopes to create a working computational model of the organ.

It seems a natural pairing, almost like the hemispheres of a human brain: two controversial and ambitious projects that seek to decipher the body's control center are poised to join forces.

The European Union’s €1-billion (US$1.3-billion) Human Brain Project (HBP) and the United States’ $1-billion Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative will launch a collaboration later this year, according to government officials involved in both projects.

Representative Chaka Fattah (Democrat, Pennslyvania) hinted at the plan in a speech on 12 March. The brain, he says, ”is something that has defied understanding. You can't imagine a more important scientific cooperation”, says Fattah, the highest-ranking Democratic member of a House of Representatives panel that oversees funding for several US science agencies.

Details about how closely the US and European programs will coordinate are still nebulous, but US government officials say that the effort will include all of the BRAIN Initiative's government partners — the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), who directs the HBP, says that Israel's brain initiative will also be involved.

Kathy Hudson, NIH's deputy director for science, outreach and policy, says that the coordination will begin with a workshop later this year, after the US agency awards its first BRAIN Initiative grants in June. At that workshop, the two groups will discuss the extent to which they want to collaborate and share data, and their scientific progress. A spokesperson from the European Commission, which funds the HBP, adds that issues such as the ethics of brain mapping and policies for sharing data are also likely to surface. The role that the US program's non-government partners will play has yet to be determined.

The ultimate goal, Hudson says, is to ensure that the research programs cover as much ground as possible without duplicating each others' efforts.

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Q&A

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What is the differenc in human vs sheep brain dealing with the ponsmedulla

The human pons is larger
(pons serves as a bridge of communication between cerebellum and cerebrum)
The sheep medulla is larger
(Medulla controls vital functions (breathing and heart beat))

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What is the Size of elephant brain vs human brain?

Elephant's brain is about 6X as large as a human brain. In relation to body size, humans have the largest brain of all the animals

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