President Obama announced on Tuesday a brain-mapping initiative that could help scientists unlock the secrets to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, strokes and even human cognition, but will require the assistance of significant computing power.
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, announced Tuesday morning in a presidential speech at the White House after a fleeting mention in President Obama’s February State of the Union Address, will require heavy use of cutting-edge and yet-to-be-invented data processing and imaging technologies for success. Obama said, studying and mapping the human brain, , will not only help scientists improve their understanding of human thought, learning, and memory, but could also help cure disease.
The new research initiative will include the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, outside academics, and private companies and foundations such as the Allen Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The White House hopes to spend more than $100 million the first year of the project, with more money coming from private-sector partners.
In addition, those agencies and organizations will be pushing the envelope on data collection and analysis technologies. “Significant breakthroughs will require a new generation of tools to enable researchers to record signals from brain cells in much greater numbers and at even faster speeds,” the White House said in a press release. “This cannot currently be achieved, but great promise for developing such technologies lies at the intersections of nanoscience, imaging, engineering, informatics and other rapidly emerging fields.”
Among the specific projects being funded under BRAIN will be DARPA’s Detection and Computational Analysis of Psychological Signals effort, which will require analyses of very large data sets. DARPA also will “develop a new set of tools to capture and process dynamic neural and synaptic activities,” according to the White House press release.
BRAIN will require new computer technologies to perform the necessary research, and the results of the research could also be used to develop new information technologies.