President Obama today proposed the BRAIN Initiative, a $100 million brain-mapping project designed to promote American innovation and job growth while finding ways to treat and cure ailments such as Alzheimer's disease and brain damage from strokes.
Short for Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, the BRAIN Initiative will be funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. Funding will begin in October, when fiscal year 2014 begins. It will also involve partnerships with universities and the private sector.
"As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, study 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 at the White House today. "As a result, we're still unable to cure diseases like Alzheimer's or autism or fully reverse the effects of a stroke."
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Obama compared the BRAIN Initiative to the Human Genome Project, which Congress established in 1990 to last through 2005 and cost $3 billion. It ultimately finished early and came in under budget. It's not clear how much the Brain Initiative will cost after 2014, assuming Congress funds it.
"Every dollar spent on the Human Genome Project has returned $140 to our economy," he said, echoing his State of the Union address in February.
Computer chips, GPS technology and the Internet all grew out of initial government investments in research, Obama said. The National Science Foundation provided early support for Google, he added.
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said the investment is a wise one despite economic uncertainty.
"The reality is we can't afford not to," he said. "The worst thing we can do during challenging economic times is to stifle thinking."