WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama is asking Congress to spend $100 million next year to start a new project to map the human brain in hopes of eventually finding cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s on Tuesday.
Obama says the so-called BRAIN Initiative could create jobs and unlock the mysteries of the brain. That could eventually lead to cures to ailments including Parkinson’s and autism and help reverse the effect of a stroke or other traumatic injuries.
Obama says the research has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide.
Obama mentioned the idea in his State of the Union address, comparing the scientific and economic potential to the Human Genome Project that mapped DNA.
“Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every dollar,” Obama said in the address to Congress in February. “Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s.
“Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation,” Obama said. “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.”
The project will require the development of new technology that can record the electrical activity of individual cells and complex neural circuits in the brain “at the speed of thought,” the White House said.
Obama wants the $100 million to support research at the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. He also wants private companies, universities and philanthropists to partner with the federal agencies in support of the research. And he wants a study of the ethical, legal and societal implications of the research.
The goals of the work are unclear at this point. A working group at NIH, co-chaired by Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann of The Rockefeller University and William Newsome of Stanford University, would work on defining the goals and develop a multi-year plan to achieve them that included cost estimates.
He announced the project Tuesday from the White House’s East Room. The project will require the development of new technology that can record the electrical activity of individual cells and complex neural circuits in the brain.
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