Science projects About the Human Brain

What’s going on in your head? No one really knows how the brain works… yet. But billions of dollars are being poured into giant projects around the world to figure it out.

Huge brain projects have been launched in the US, Europe, China, Israel, Japan and Canada. The projects vary slightly in their aims – the US BRAIN initiative will start by cataloguing the types of cells in the brain and how they wire together, while the China Brain Science Project is focused on developmental, psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

All of the groups hope to make headway in the treatment of poorly understood conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. “A fifth of the Chinese population suffers from a neurological disorder, ” says Nancy Ip of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Japan’s Brain/MINDS project – focused on understanding the non-human primate brain – is set to receive around $30 million a year over the next decade. Between 2013 and 2023, the European Human Brain Project is expected to cost a cool $1.3 billion. The US project was launched in 2013 with funds of $100 million – a figure that the team says is being ramped up to $400 million annually over the next five years, after which it should be increased to $500 million a year until 2025.

The teams don’t admit to competing in a global brain race, though. “Most of us see competition as good, ” John Donoghue, a member of the US National Institutes of Health committee on the BRAIN initiative, told the Brain Forum meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week. “The hope is that this will lead to a global initiative, like the International Space Station.”

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