The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is a chief scientific focus of the Obama Administration—a decade-long effort to map the neuronal circuitry of the human brain and unlock the mysteries of how the brain functions in health and disease. Pushing back the boundaries of neuroscience, this multidisciplinary collaboration will greatly expand our understanding of the visual system and accelerate new treatments for vision disorders.
Sept. 30, 2014
About the BRAIN Initiative
The Advisory Committee to the NIH Director BRAIN Working Group issued its plan for BRAIN in June 2014. Titled BRAIN 2025, the plan recommends annual investments ramping up to $400 million during the first six years of the initiative, and increasing to an annual $500 million during the following six years. William Newsome, who studies visual perception at Stanford University, co-chaired the 15-member BRAIN Working Group. The group also included three other leading vision scientists: Peter MacLeish, Morehouse School of Medicine; Richard Normann, University of Utah; and Joshua Sanes, Harvard University.
The NIH has committed $40 million in 2014 and will be a major partner for the duration of the initiative. Other government partners include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. Private sector partners include the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
How will BRAIN advance vision science?
BRAIN 2025 hints at several ways BRAIN will advance vision science, and vice versa. NEI-supported research has generated advanced knowledge of the retina, making it an ideal model for study. The retina is recommended as a “flagship project” for inventorying the many different kinds of cells in the central nervous system. As BRAIN explores new approaches to “connectome” technology—methods to trace and understand electrical activity in neural circuits—the retina is again proposed as an early target for analysis. The plan emphasizes the need for refinements of imaging technologies, such as improvements in electron microscopy techniques for tissue sectioning and better software to render computerized re-creations of neural circuits. BRAIN will also support research on advanced cell recording techniques for studying how interneurons, such as bipolar and amacrine cells in the retina, modulate circuit behavior. Together, these efforts will help us obtain a complete understanding of the structure and function of neural circuits and how they influence human perception, cognition, and behavior.
The first NIH-funded BRAIN projects are getting underway in fall 2014. Check here for updates on how NEI and the vision community are contributing to BRAIN and how we are leveraging this unique opportunity to advance vision science.
For more information about the BRAIN Initiative, visit http://www.nih.gov/science/brain/.