BAM! Goes ‘BRAIN’ – Updates on the US Brain Mapping Project


Snippet of the Whitehouse Brain Initiative infographic. Click to see in full.

I’m a bit miffed that it’s been only a couple of days and my last post, Perspectives on the NEW Decade of the Brain is already out of date. But really it’s only due to a name change.

Today, “Brain” or Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies was officially announced along with a shiny new infographic website in the place of the previous BAM working title (Brain Activity Map). BAM was pretty catchy, whereas now I think it sounds like they first came up with the idea of calling it the acronym ‘brain’, then inserted appropriate sounding words.

In his speech on the initiative, President Obama speaks generally about the importance of investment in science, naming, you guessed it, the $141 return for every dollar invested in the Human Genome Project. He begins talking about the Brain Initiative about 6 minutes in.

Obama talks big about America’s dynamism of doing things before everyone else. We will just have to wait and see what comes from this and the European lead Human Brain Project.

Ideas are what power our economy…that’s what America’s been all about….people who see what nobody else sees, sooner than anybody else sees it. We do innovation better than anybody else.

The President also mentions some of the heavily researched disorders: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, even ‘reversing’ traumatic brain injury and PTSD for “our veterans who are coming home” (nicely done).

$100 million of funding for the fiscal year of 2014 will be spread across 3 organisations: $40 million from the National Institutes of Health, $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), and $20 million from the National Science Foundation, as well as working with researchers in the private sector.

Despite the official press release, there’s no additional information to be found on plans for how the project will be carried out. All we know is that a plan will be made:

NIH is establishing a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) to help shape this new initiative. This working group, co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann (The Rockefeller University) and Dr. William Newsome (Stanford University), is being asked to articulate the scientific goals of the BRAIN initiative and develop a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including timetables, milestones, and cost estimates.

So while the initiative is still ironing out the details of their goals, at least there’s some established funding to get it going. But the HBP can’t  let today be all about the US Brain Initiative…here they are on twitter showing ‘innovative’ America what’s what:



Perspectives on the NEW Decade of the Brain

Brain Activity Map vs. Human Brain Project. America vs. Europe.

The Cortical Crusades. (Image from The New Yorker)

I, like the neuroscience community, can’t wait to see what will come from the race to gaining ‘complete comprehension’ of the brain’s neural workings. So I’ve compiled several sources and opinions on the proposed projects to try to understand what research will take place, and where we think it’ll lead.

The race began last month when Obama announced a decade long brain mapping scheme which certainly appears to be challenging the recently launched European lead Human Brain Project (HBP) to a neuroscience duel; the American Brain Activity Map see the HBP’s €1 billion investment, and raises its to $3 billion. The goals of these initiatives are to “examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity” [1] and “to reverse-engineer the human brain in computers” [2], respectively, and both in the space of a decade.

This injection of capital in neuroscientific research sounds familiar. In the ’90s a ‘Decade of the Brain’ was declared by George Bush, with an aim “to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research” [3]. What can we expect this time around?  Continue reading