President Obama announced Tuesday his plan to spend $100 million to “revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.”
Dubbed the BRAIN Initiative — short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — the program calls on the National Institutes of Health, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation to kickstart the research.
Describing the brain mapping project as one of his administration’s “Grand Challenges,” the president explained the goal behind the grants:
Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. Imagine if someone with a prosthetic limb can now play the piano or throw a baseball as well as anybody else, because the wiring from the brain to that prosthetic is direct and triggered by what's already happening in the patient's mind. What if computers could respond to our thoughts or our language barriers could come tumbling down. Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields — jobs we haven’t even dreamt up yet — because we chose to invest in this project.
Freeing the human race from disease is a noble endeavor, but perhaps President Obama should explain how the military’s super-secret research and development group (DARPA) is going to help.
DARPA answers that question on its own website. In a statement announcing its participation in BRAIN, DARPA declares: “Better understanding of human brain supports national security.”
To help keep the country safe, DARPA will focus on the following aspects of the function of the human brain:
DARPA plans to explore two key areas to elicit further understanding of the brain. New tools are needed to measure and analyze electrical signals and the biomolecular dynamics underpinning brain function. Researchers will also explore, abstract and model the vast spectrum of brain functions by examining its incredible complexity.
DARPA’s planned investment includes new programs to address the areas outlined and ongoing efforts designed to advance fundamental understanding of the brain’s dynamics to drive applications (Revolutionizing Prosthetics, Restorative Encoding Memory Integration Neural Device, Reorganization and Plasticity to Accelerate Injury Recovery, Enabling Stress Resistance), manufacture sensing systems for neuroscience applications (Reliable Neutral Interface Technology, Blast Gauge), and analyze large data sets (Detection and Computational Analysis of Psychological Signals).
Click here to read the entire article.