WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday asked Congress to spend $100 million next year on a new project to map the human brain in hopes of eventually finding cures for disorders like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and traumatic injuries.
Obama, who jokingly labeled himself “Scientist-in-Chief,” said the so-called BRAIN Initiative could create jobs and eventually lead to answers to ailments including Parkinson’s and autism and help reverse the effect of a stroke. The president told scientists gathered in the White House’s East Room that the research has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide.
“I’m glad I’ve been promoted Scientist-in-Chief,” Obama said, according to the Weekly Standard. “Given my grades in physics, I’m not sure it’s deserving. But I hold science in proper esteem, so maybe that gives me a little credit.”
“As humans we can identify galaxies light-years away,” Obama said. “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.”
The $100 million requested is an initial investment that would support research at the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. Obama also wants private companies, universities and philanthropists to partner with the federal agencies in support of the research.
In February when rumors about the project were beginning to emerge, sources said they thought the initiative could total up to $3 billion over a decade. For perspective, in the New York Times’ article in February, it was pointed out that the human genome project cost $3.8 billion but returned $800 billion.
Obama also said he wants a study of the ethical, legal and societal implications of the research.
BRAIN stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. The idea, which Obama first proposed in his State of the Union address, would 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.
Watch this brief video about the initiative:
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.
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