US launches initiative to explore human brain

Washington, April 3 (IANS/EFE) US President Barack Obama has announced an ambitious multidisciplinary program to create a map of the human brain that could help cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.

“We have been a nation of dreamers and risk-takers,” said Obama Tuesday in the East Room of the White House before an audience including several of the scientists and businessmen taking part in the project.

“Computer chips and GPS technology, the Internet – all these things grew out of government investments in basic research,” the president said, before introducing the BRAIN Initiative as “the next great American project”.

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative has been allocated somewhat over $100 million in the 2014 budget bill that the Obama administration will present this month.

Among the objectives of the effort launched Tuesday is helping scientists find ways to treat, cure and even prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism and epilepsy and to repair traumatic damage suffered by the brain.

“As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears,” Obama said.

The president had already announced his decision to launch a program to explore the brain during his Feb 12 State of the Union address.

Among the scientists in the forefront of the BRAIN Initiative is Spaniard Rafael Yuste, a professor of biological science and neuroscience at Columbia University in New York.

Yuste was the primary author of a June 2012 article in Neuron magazine in which he outlined the initiative on the basis of the work he has carried out over the past 16 years at Columbia.



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