President Obama is planning to back an exhaustive study of the human brain that could help researchers gain insight into everything from Alzheimer's to mental illness to artificial intelligence, the New York Times reports:
The Brain Activity Map project could be unveiled as soon as March and is expected to cost billions of dollars, the Times says.
It differs significantly from the Human Brain Project, the $1.3 billion brain research project Europe unveiled recently. The European project involves simulating the human brain; the Obama proposal focuses on mapping brain activity.
For more amazing brain research, go here.
"President Obama is planning an exhaustive study of the human brain"
Wow, didn't know he was a scientist?! I'm thinking he should focus on the country and not his own pet projects.
Mind reading, mind control...these definitely seem like things a government should have control of. I foresee no problems with this. I'm sure they'll definitely only use it to help people with Alzheimers. Just keep moving people, nothing to see here.
This is simply another Administration press release PopSci eagerly copy & pastes.
They are targeting a voting block of the academic elites, letting them know Obama is still thinking of them. It's like a player taking his new girl window shopping.
"Oh baby, if I could, I'd so love to buy these earings, you deserve it. Let me borrow some money so I can pamper you." But once again we are left with the bill after getting ourselves screwed.
lol u people are crazy..... Thankfully we have a president who has a mind capable of understanding how investing in science leads to a better economy and healthier population.... See human genome project as an example... We learned the genes in the body and now have a good understanding of how they cause disease and are creating therapies such as enzyme replacement and gene silencing/overexpression to treat these.
Stop being paranoid, scientists are not elitists... We are little kids who still have the passion to ask "why not". You should too.
Personally, I support the promotion of science and technology. As a world superpower, it should be the Americans' responsibilities to fund world-benefitting research.
@montisumo Sorry, don't buy that our community organizer Obama is a great scientific thinker. If Bush proposed the same thing, you would not have the same affection as you do for your current Obama night pillow.
Let's check back in 4 years and see what Sugar-Daddy Obama actually funds. Will it be:
A) The most promising projects with the most merit of advancing science or thought.
B) The most favored projects to politically linked causes & institutions.
I am not saying Obama is dumb, by any means. I'm saying he has a clear plan of where he wants to take us. Half the country sees it and rejects it, the other half pretends not to notice that their blind date just locked the car door.
@mukuro I agree.
"As a world superpower, it should be the Americans' responsibilities to fund world-benefitting research."
You've peaked my curiosity, how so?
Or I should say piqued my curiosity.
Lame. Clearly this potential research is a direct response to the massive European 1.3 Billion Dollars 'Human Brain Project' to simulate for the first time a complete human brain on a computer and to be achieved over the coming 10 years (goal is focused on large medical advancements).
After falling behind on physics research and Europe taking over leadership with CERN and it`s facilities the US science leaders probably fear falling behind here as well.
The problem of course he is going to 'unveil' it next month but at the same time currently massive budget cuts into Trillions of Dollars are on the agenda. It`s like his promises of US high speed rail and more money for science overall to catch up with CERN and other developments. The money never materialized. No High Speed Rail has been built since he took office and non are about to begin or be finished for years to come.
Just as with Bush and his constellation project to return to the moon which eventually had to be cancelled because the money was not there. Now the promise by Obama is an asteroid visit and onto mars but that`s way more expensive then going back to the moon so guess what. It will be cancelled without a doubt. And then just wait till the budget cuts finally are implemented.
@gman46 "President Obama is planning to back an exhaustive study "
I think this is an excellent project. And so what if we are doing it in response to the Swedish "Human Brain Project"? The space race was 90% Nationalism and 10% Curiosity. I'm glad we made it to the Moon (yes crazies, we did), but if not for competing with Russia there's no telling how long it would have been delayed.
This spurs competetive research on an international level and (infinitely more important) opens the floodgates on neurological disease treatments and artificial intelligence. Any of you on here who want to bury your heads in the sand and pretend that AI doesn't exist clearly haven't ever used a smart phone, and any of you who don't believe that fully modeling the human brain will be necessary to bring true AI to fruition are deluding yourselves (the brain is incredibly efficient). Why not get on board and show those Swedes what for?
AMERICA, F*&K YEAH!
While I really applaud the efforts of scientists to carefully investigate the architecture of the brain down to the level of intercellular connections and deeper, the challenges, fruits and risks of multi-billion dollar programs such as the Human Genome Project and now the Brain Activity Map require much deeper scrutiny. It seems to me that the objective of deducing the connections of all of the neuronal connections is like trying to identify all of the types and placements of trees, shrubs and plants in a vast forest. There are clearly underlying principles at work that influence the general composition and arrangement of the vegetation in a forest and how it functions as an ecosystem. However, when you view more forests over the surface of the planet, it is clear that no two forests are the same despite their initial similarities when viewed from 30,000 feet above. I believe such an analogy applies to the proposal to map the human brain at the single cell level. It seems to be a rather “ill conceived” project.
There is no doubt that there is a great unmet need to better prevent, diagnosis and treat Alzheimer's disease, Parkinsons' disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and many other devastating neurological disorders, and this requires increased research and development funding from government, charities and industry. However, I really seriously question the wisdom of diversion of a significant amount of limited resources available at this juncture for basic scientific research towards the specific goal of mapping brain activity patterns at the cellular level.
In the Brain Activity Map proposal white paper, entitled “The Whole Brain Activity Map: Merging Nanoscience and Neuroscience for Technology and Health” and dated in 2011 and posted in the Columbia University Academic Commons, the proponents ultimately seek to determine how the brain computes by creation of a detailed anatomical highway map of the brain. While the four and a half page paper is obviously short on specifics, it initially describes expanded studies of the brains of the worm C. elegans, the fruit fly Drosophila and the mouse to map out individual neuron interactions. However, the longer term vision encompassed by the proposal is both fanciful and actually quite frightening. It states:
“Beyond these immediate next steps, we envision working towards the ultimate development of subsequent generations of untethered, nanoscale neural probes that can locally acquire, process, and store accumulated data, and that would ultimately be configurable into a communications network within the tissue. Such device networks could potentially address the long-standing problem of how to obtain sufficient coverage in deep tissue layers. These networks of “intelligent” nanosystems would also be capable of providing specific responses to externally applied signals, or to their own readings of brain activity. Their responses could be used to trigger nerve cell activity in a measured manner, and could comprise the first steps in controlled restoration of normal patterns of activity in damaged brains. This would initially be done in animal models for brain injuries, such as TBI and PTSD, or for psychiatric disease.”
There is a huge litany of issues ranging from technical, economic, and practical to profound ethical considerations associated with such a proposal. The “mind blowing” implications that human brain activities such as perhaps the generation of thought itself might become directly controlled by mechanical intervention that could be inputted by others or even artificial intelligence raises the deepest of concerns. Every major advancement of science and technology comes with consequences that are not necessarily in the best interests of most of humanity or the rest of our planet. Much more extensive discussions amongst brain researchers and ultimately the broader community internationally is warranted before significant amounts of funding should be earmarked for such a project.
One of my chief concerns are that fruitful research along different lines, such as the promising use of stem cell technology or molecular pharmacology, to treat neurological disorders, will be compromised with a major effort that is fixated on mapping neuronal connections that in the end may not really be able to rectify the pathological processes that underlie the most common brain and spinal cord diseases. In the vast majority of these illnesses, it is the destruction of neurons and other supporting brain cells that leads to loss of brain function. Neuroscience researchers will be diverted from engaging in more timely and practical directions as they will be forced to follow the money if they wish to receive any significant financial support.
My other primary concern relates to the plasticity of the human brain itself. While each muscle is the human body is ultimately controlled by a single neuron, and the brain is organized into distinct subregions linked with particular motor control and cognitive functions, there does not appear to be a requirement of specific neuronal interactions at the cellular level. The number of neural connections in the adult human brain is in the order of 100 to 500 trillion. Each neuron has on average about a thousand direct links to the synapses of other neurons. The true value of mapping this to such a high level of precision is of dubious value and only a generalized map can be produced ultimately. Vast variations with the individual differences in the connectivities of nervous systems amongst people will significantly undermine the value of any generalized map. Such differences arise, because personal genomics and different environments have a huge impact on brain development and fine structure. As a very plastic organ, whole regions of the brain can wane and expand depending on, for example, the sensory inputs, nutrition and exposure to toxic substances.
The sooner this project is finished, the sooner we can figure out what was wrong with the brains of the people that reelected Nobama ;0)
cleary u folks do not understand the contribution of projects like this and the human genome project. So I will put it in blunt terms. Human genome project cost 3 billion dollars and returned 800 billion to the US economy through various ways.
So for every dollar invested in research 140 dollars are returned to the US economy.
Hopefully that helps you to start thinking about this.
This is not a political issue, if bush did it I would be just as happy because it means more funding for me. But he didnt, in fact he cut funding and limited research by preventing stem cells from being used.
Its refreshing to once again have a president in charge with big visions.......
Been a fan of genome mapping from it's inception. Clearly we know who gave us genome, it wasn't Obama, he gave us Solynda.
PS: "Its refreshing to once again have a president in charge with big visions......."
nice... let me know how that works out for you. :)
montisumo ; How about a link to back that up please.
-Kinexus ; Nice post. Thanks
I guess Obama wants to know what a human brain is....and where he can get one.
@Bropocalypse "Obama Expected To Launch Massive Study Of The Human Brain"
Learn to read.
I agree with Lumpydude... "Kinexus- Nice post"
Would have liked to see your own your own article here instead, very informative.
Wow! Thanks @Kinexus for taking the time to write so thoughtfully among the political trolling. I actually think the BAM project is designed to answer some of the fundamental questions that you think need to come first (as well as deal with questions of individual variation, and plasticity, in neural circuits).
For those who don't have access to the original Neuron white paper, I've written a brief synopsis on my blog:
My own comments (as a neuroscientist) are also on the blog.
uptil I looked at the paycheck which said $5369, I didnt believe ...that...my neighbour could actualey bringing home money in their spare time at there labtop.. there brothers friend started doing this for under eighteen months and resently repaid the debts on their house and purchased a new Jaguar XJ. this is where I went, -- Buzz80.ℂOℳ
Gman46 02/18/13 at 11:16 am wrote, "Wow, didn't know he was a scientist?!"
They should just give him the Nobel RIGHT NOW! He deserves it as much as the Nobel Peace Prize he got!
David Axelrod said that Obama "is someone who in law school worked with [Harvard professor] Larry Tribe on a paper on the legal implications of Einstein's theory of relativity". --Washington Post, January 25, 2010
Is there anything he CAN'T do?
(Actually, the paper just used General Relativity as an analogy to an area of law, and Obama is among others thanked in a footnote.)
I would volunteer to have my brain studied invasively
This is a great idea!!