About the Brain Activity Map Project

Building Blocks of the BRAIN Initiative: Role of the Brain Activity Map Project

In 2011, neuroscientists and nanoscientists had an idea for revolutionizing our understanding of the brain. A series of events stemming from that idea served as the building blocks for President Obama's BRAIN Initiative.

What is the Brain Activity Map (BAM) Project?

Allen/Gatsby/Kavli Workshop - BAM 2011Allen/Gatsby/Kavli Workshop: Opportunities at the Interface of Neuroscience and Nanoscience, Chicheley Hall

The Brain Activity Map (BAM) Project was conceived to increase our understanding of the brain by deciphering the neural code that gives rise to our perceptions and experiences. The idea was raised in 2011, when 13 neuroscientists and 14 nanoscientists met at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre outside London for a special symposium entitled, “Opportunities at the Interface of Neuroscience and Nanoscience.” During this meeting, the prospect of mapping the functioning brain was discussed. Eighteen months later, the Brain Activity Map Project proposal, and the scientists who propelled BAM, would prove catalytic to President Obama's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The science community has now turned to the challenges ahead, as well as the opportunities that will come from achieving what has been described as “the Holy Grail” of neuroscience. Explore the timeline (below) to learn more about key events and papers that served as the building blocks of the BRAIN Initiative.

The Brain Activity Map Timeline


Composed of federal and non-federal members and affiliates, the BRAIN Initiative Alliance mission is to coordinate and facilitate communications from its members related to the BRAIN Initiative. The Alliance seeks to inform and engage the public and the scientific community about scientific successes emerging from the BRAIN Initiative, and opportunities for further discovery. Visit the website for further information and additional resources..


What are key activities that took place on the journey from BAM to BRAIN?

Neuron paper: Following the September 2011 meeting at The Kavli Royal Society International Centre, a group of scientists who now jokingly refer to themselves as the “Kavli Six” authored a report on The Brain Activity Map and later published the ambitious proposal, “The Brain Activity Map Project and the Challenge of Functional Connectomics,” in the journal Neuron in 2012. The Kavli Six include Paul Alivasatos (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab), Miyoung Chun (The Kavli Foundation), George Church (Harvard Medical School), Ralph Greenspan (University of California, San Diego), Michael Roukes (California Institute of Technology) and Rafael Yuste (Columbia University).

OSTP hosts BAM discussion, Washington DCOSTP hosts BAM discussion, Washington DC

Idea Exploration Through Meetings: At subsequent meetings in 2012 to 2013, possibilities for a future government-led project were explored by scientists from a range of sectors: academic institutions, U.S. government agencies, including members of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, private foundations and industry.

Science Paper: In March 2013, the Kavli Six along with Karl Deisseroth (Stanford University), John Donoghue (Brown University), Paul McEuen (Cornell University) and Paul Weiss (University of California, Los Angeles), integrated suggestions from this sequence of meetings to produce a Science Perspectives article on “The Brain Activity Map” in the journal Science.

The BRAIN Initiative Announcement: One month later, on April 2, 2013, President Obama announced the BRAIN Initiative at The White House. This initial proposal included fiscal year 2014 expenditures of approximately $110 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Companies, foundations and private research institutions pledged to invest in neuroscience research, such as the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and The Kavli Foundation. Learn more about BAM