Obama launches $ 100 million brain mapping project
WASHINGTON: Pushing for job-creating discoveries to happen in the US rather than in India or China, President Barack Obama has unveiled an ambitious $ 100 million project to unlock the "enormous mystery" of the human brain.
"The most powerful computer in the world isn't nearly as intuitive as the one we're born with," Obama said at the White House yesterday.
"There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked, and the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action and better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember," he said.
"And that knowledge could be - will be - transformative," he added.
"We can't afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead. We have to seize them. I don't want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here, in the United States of America," Obama said.
Launched with approximately $ 100 million in the President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, the BRAIN initiative ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
The BRAIN initiative will accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought, the White House said.
"As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can studies particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the 3 pounds of matter that sits between our ears," Obama said.
"But today scientists possess the capability to study individual neurons and figure out the main functions of certain areas of the brain, but a human brain contains almost a hundred billion neurons making trillions of connections," the US President said.
These technologies will open new doors to explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information, and shed light on the complex links between brain function and behaviour, the White House said.
Obama, in his remarks, also called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.