Obama administration plans brain-mapping project

Brain map--Courtesy of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

President Barack Obama is poised to launch a public-private initiative aimed at mapping the human brain, called the Brain Activity Map.

Akin to the Human Genome Project in the 1990s, the plan is projected to cost more than $3 billion--$300 million per year over the next 10 years. The project will be spearheaded by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy. According to The New York Times, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation will also participate in the project, as well as other collaborators like Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

Obama alluded to investing in the project in his State of the Union address on Feb. 13, and his administration could unveil the initiative as early as March, the New York Times article says.

The project gives promise to unlocking secrets of the brain and eventually finding therapies to treat debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which continue to confound scientists.

"With a significant increase in investments in this field, we believe that targeted Alzheimer's research efforts and this new brain mapping initiative have the potential to provide the nation with a common rallying point and move us closer to achieving the national goal of stopping Alzheimer's by 2025," George Vradenburg, chairman of the advocacy group USAgainstAlzheimer's, said in a statement.

Europe has just rolled out a similar initiative called The Human Brain Project, which last month garnered €1 billion ($1.35 billion) in committed support from the European Union.

The U.S. project could be controversial at a time when sequestration threatens across-the-board spending cuts and government research institutions have pared back on grants to scientists.

NIH and other federal agencies have yet to release a detailed proposal of the Brain Activity Map. 

- read the New York Times story