Kavli Blog

The objective of the next phase of the NeuroNex Program at the National Science Foundation is the establishment of distributed, international research networks that build on existing global investments in neurotechnologies to address overarching questions in neuroscience.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is now soliciting applications for the next phase of the Next Generation Networks for Neuroscience (NeuroNex) Program. The program cultivates technology-enabled, team-based neuroscience: achieving an understanding of brain structure and function that spans levels of organization, spatial and temporal scales, and the diversity of species requires an international, transdisciplinary collaborative effort to not only integrate discipline-specific ideas and approaches but also extend them to stimulate new discoveries, and innovative concepts, theories, and methodologies.

The next phase of the NeuroNex Program seeks to establish distributed, international research networks that build on existing global investments in neurotechnologies to address overarching questions in neuroscience. The creation of such global research networks of excellence will foster international cooperation by seeding close interactions between a wide array of organizations across the world, as well as creating links and articulating alliances between multiple recently launched international brain projects. The potential transformative advances in neuroscience stemming from this activity will have profound scientific and societal impacts.

The goal of this solicitation is to support collaborative networks (~15-20 investigators in each network) comprised of international teams of disciplinarily diverse experimentalists, theorists, and research resource (including technology and cyberinfrastructure) developers working on a common foundational question in neuroscience. It is anticipated that these networks will enable experimentation, analysis, and discovery in neuroscience at scales much larger than currently possible. The NSF and international partner agencies envision a connected portfolio of transformative, integrative projects that leverage existing global investments in neurotechnologies and create synergistic links across domestic and international investigators and communities, yielding novel ways of tackling the challenges of understanding the brain in action and in context.

This interdisciplinary, international program is one element of NSF’s broader effort directed at Understanding the Brain, a multi-year activity that includes NSF’s participation in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (https://www.nsf.gov/brain/).

For more information, please view the NSF program solicitation. Preliminary proposals are due June 14, 2019; full proposals are due December 13, 2019.



The virtual conference, featuring multiple NIH BRAIN speakers and BRAIN-funded investigators, addresses the role of the brain and nervous system at multiple levels of observation, from molecular to functional, and the neuroethical implications of this cutting-edge work.

NIH BRAIN speakers and BRAIN-funded investigators will be presenting at LabRoots’ 7th Annual Neuroscience Virtual Conference, broadcasting live for free on March 13-14, 2019. The theme of this year’s event is the Biological Basis of Behavior. Using approaches that range from biological to computational, the conference will address the role of the brain and nervous system at multiple levels of observation, from molecular to functional.

Over the two-day conference, three sessions will provide an extensive exploration of causes and correlations. Additionally, the application of cutting-edge technologies will be assessed. Session topics include: NIH BRAIN Funding Opportunities, BRAIN Initiative Scientific Updates, Neuroethics, Innovative Neurotechnologies, and more.

NIH BRAIN speakers will include:

  • Dr. Joshua Gordon, Director, National Institute of Mental Health
  • Dr. Karen David, Program Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • Dr. Jim Gnadt, Program Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • Dr. Nick Langhals, Program Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • Dr. Khara Ramos, Director, Neuroethics Program, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • Dr. Saskia Hendriks, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Bioethics, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health

BRAIN-funded investigator speakers will include:

  • Dr. Michael Beauchamp, Professor, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Dr. Elizabeth Buffalo, Professor, University of Washington
  • Dr. György Buzsáki, Biggs Professor of Neuroscience, NYU School of Medicine
  • Dr. Jennifer Collinger, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh
  • Dr. Bijan Pesaran, Associate Professor of Neural Science, New York University
  • Dr. Nader Pouratian, Assistant Professor, UCLA Medical Center & UCLA Brain Research Institute
  • Dr. R. Mark Richardson, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh
  • Dr. Ueli Rutishauser, Associate Professor, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • Dr. Sameer Sheth, Associate Professor, Baylor College of Medicine

For more information and to register, please visit: https://www.labroots.com/virtual-event/neuroscience-2019.

Recent meetings of the NIH BRAIN Initiative Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG) and Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG) provided considerations of the neuroethical implications of sharing brain research data, an update from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0, and updates on BRAIN’s scientific progress.

On February 11th, 2019, the Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG) to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative® held its seventh meeting. The NEWG helps ensure that neuroethics is fully integrated into the BRAIN Initiative. Participants at the meeting discussed the current state of the BRAIN Initiative and ethical considerations for the sharing of brain research data. To provide insight on the latter topic, the NEWG heard from Dr. Arthur Toga (University of Southern California), who described three different platforms that have been developed for neural data sharing purposes: ENIGMA, GAAIN, and DABI (Data Archive for the BRAIN Initiative) and shared some lessons learned. The group also heard from Dr. Nita Farahany (Duke University), who presented the results of her study looking at the public’s perceptions of brain privacy. In hearing the valuable perspectives, the group agreed that data sharing is necessary. In addition, it is important to understand peoples’ motivations for participating in research and what their expectations are around privacy.

For more information, please view the NEWG meeting summary and the archived videocast of the meeting.

The following day, on February 12th, the NIH BRAIN Initiative Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG) convened to discuss the current state of the BRAIN Initiative and its future. The group includes a liaison to the Advisory Council of each of the 10 Institutes and Centers that contribute to the NIH BRAIN Initiative, with additional at-large members appointed to supplement the working group’s expertise. In addition, the working group includes ex officio members from DARPA, FDA, IARPA, and NSF—four of NIH’s federal partners involved in the BRAIN Initiative.

Drs. Walter Koroshetz (NINDS) and Joshua Gordon (NIMH) began the meeting by providing an overview of the current state of the NIH BRAIN Initiative, including recent scientific advances, recent leadership changes, and current global BRAIN Initiative efforts. Dr. John Maunsell, co-chair of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) NIH BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0, then presented an interim update of the group’s efforts. They will present their findings for consideration by the ACD in June 2019. Finally, Dr. Greg Farber (NIMH) presented MCWG members with an overview of the FY18 funding portfolio, as well as BRAIN Data Infrastructure and Data Sharing efforts, which aim to manage and store the massive amount of data being collected by BRAIN Initiative researchers.

For more information, please view the MCWG meeting summary and the archived videocast of the meeting.

NIH is accepting submissions for artistic and eye-catching images and videos in the 2019 BRAIN Initiative Show Us Your BRAINS! Cool Picture & Video Contest.

Neuroscience has come a long way since the hand drawings of Ramόn y Cajal. Yet, images, and now videos, continue to capture the wonder and beauty inherent to the exploration of the brain. Regardless of discipline, career stage, or funding source, we invite all those engaged in the BRAIN Initiative to enter your coolest, most artistic, and eye-catching images (1-10 MB) and short videos (<30 s) in the 2019 BRAIN Initiative Show Us Your BRAINS! Cool Picture & Video Contest.

Mirror Neurons?! Courtesy of Leterrier, NeuroCyto Lab, INP, Marseille, France

Be creative! It will help us show the public how you are revolutionizing brain science.

NIH will accept submissions up until 5p.m. on Friday, March 22nd, 2019. The 2019 Program Committee for the 5th Annual BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting will review submissions and select the 20 entries that they feel capture the creative spirit of the BRAIN Initiative. On April 5th, the finalists will be posted online for public voting. The top 3 photos and top 3 videos will be announced on Saturday, April 13th at the 5th Annual BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting – WITH PRIZES!! 

Mitochondria take to the dance floor. Courtesy of Zhang lab, NIH/NINDS

Please submit your pictures in jpeg, gif, or png formats at a minimum 300 dpi resolution and ranging from 1-10 MB in size. Videos should run no longer than 30 seconds and be submitted in MP4 formats at less than 20 MB in size.

Along with your submission, please provide your name, institution, email address, a brief title (<50 characters), and a short caption (<150 characters) for your entry. You do not need to attend the 5th Annual BRAIN Investigators Meeting to enter or win. We can’t wait to see your pics!

Please note that by entering the competition, you give NIH permission to incorporate your image(s) and/or video(s) in flyers/handouts, publications, websites, presentations, social media, and other forms of communications for or related to the BRAIN Initiative, with the understanding that NIH will credit the image(s) and/or video(s).

Brain Pop! Courtesy of Reich lab, NIH/NINDS


The National Academy of Sciences recently recognized Drs. Liqun Luo, Xiaowei Zhuang, and Eve Marder for their extraordinary scientific achievements. The awards will be presented on April 28, 2019, during the Academy’s 156th annual meeting.

The National Academy of Sciences recently announced their 2019 award recipients, who will be honored on April 28, 2019, at the Academy’s 156th annual meeting. Among the 2019 recipients are Drs. Liqun Luo and Xiaowei Zhuang, two BRAIN-funded researchers, as well as Dr. Eve Marder, an at-large member of the Multi-Council Working Group.

Dr. Liqun Luo (Stanford University) will receive the 2019 Pradel Research Award, which recognizes mid-career neuroscientists whose work is making major contributions to our understanding of the nervous system. The award is presented with a $50,000 research award to designate to an institution of the recipient’s choice to support neuroscience research. Dr. Luo has invented cutting-edge techniques that enable us to better understand how neural circuits in the brain assemble and how they are organized to allow information processing. His BRAIN award uses recently-developed viral-genetic tools to dissect the complexities of the serotonin system into specific sub-systems, in order to elucidate how serotonin modulates diverse physiological functions and behaviors.

Dr. Xiaowei Zhuang (Harvard University) will receive the 2019 NAS Award for Scientific Discovery, which recognizes an accomplishment or discovery in basic research that is expected to have a significant impact on the field. The award is presented with a medal, a $50,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research. Dr. Zhuang is a leader in super-resolution imaging, single-molecule imaging, and genomic-scale imaging; her techniques have shed light on the molecular mechanisms of cellular function. Her BRAIN award is a collaborative effort that uses Mutiplexed Error Robust Fluorescent in situ Hybridization (MERFISH) to create a spatially informed cellular inventory of neural circuits in the mouse.

Dr. Eve Marder (Brandeis University) will receive the 2019 NAS Award in the Neurosciences, which recognizes extraordinary contributions to the progress of the neuroscience fields and is presented with a $25,000 prize. Dr. Marder’s work has focused on understanding neuronal circuits and plasticity through modulators within the crustacean stomatogastric ganglion system, and her transformative work has revealed neural microcircuits to be flexible and dynamic, balancing needs for plasticity and stability. Throughout her career, she has mentored young neuroscientists and championed their voices. Dr. Marder has served for the last two years as an at-large member of the BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group, which provides ongoing oversight of the long-term scientific vision of the BRAIN Initiative. She previously served on the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council from 2011 to 2014, advising the Institute on policy and procedures affecting extramural research programs, as well as providing a second level of review for applications considered by the Institute for funding.

Videocasts will be available for the open sessions of upcoming meetings on Monday, February 11, 2019, and Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

The NIH BRAIN Initiative Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG) provides expert input on neuroethics and helps ensure that neuroethical considerations are fully integrated into the Initiative. The seventh meeting of the NEWG will occur on Monday, February 11th, 2019, at the Bethesda Marriott, Grand Ballroom, Salons D and E (5151 Pooks Hill Road, Bethesda, MD 20814). The videocast may be accessed here.

The NIH BRAIN Initiative Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG), consisting of non-Federal representatives from various NIH Institutes and Centers participating in BRAIN, at-large members, and ex officio representatives from DARPA, FDA, IARPA and NSF, provides ongoing oversight of the long-term scientific vision of the NIH BRAIN Initiative, in the context of the evolving neuroscience landscape. The twelfth meeting of the MCWG will occur on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019, at the Bethesda Marriott, Grand Ballroom, Salons D and E (5151 Pooks Hill Road, Bethesda, MD 20814). The videocast may be accessed here.

Summaries and video archives of the open sessions from both meetings will be posted after the meetings have concluded.

A new data sharing policy will require BRAIN Initiative researchers to submit their data to BRAIN data archives, develop a resource sharing plan, and include costs for data preparation and archiving in grant applications.

The BRAIN Initiative calls for cross-disciplinary collaborations across a wide range of disciplines. In tandem with the growth of massive storage capabilities and high-speed computing, more diverse, fragmented, and heterogeneous quantities of data are being generated than ever before. To preserve, compare, and re-analyze valuable datasets that have been collected at great expense, it is therefore critical to support the infrastructure of data archiving and storage.

To address this need, the NIH Institutes and Centers participating in the BRAIN Initiative recently announced the notice of a data sharing policy for the BRAIN Initiative (NOT-MH-19-010). Since 2014, NIH has released BRAIN Initiative funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that will enable researchers to produce a new dynamic picture of the brain, showing – for the first time – how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space, and ultimately leading to new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders.

The NIH BRAIN Initiative is guided by the BRAIN 2025 report, which calls for establishing platforms for archiving and sharing data. In response, NIH released three FOAs for building informatics infrastructure, including: Data Archives (RFA-MH-19-145), Data Standards (RFA-MH-19-146), and Integration and Analysis Tools (RFA-MH-19-147). Currently, the funded awards to establish data archives for different types of neural data include: The Neuroscience Multi-omic Data Archive (data from -omics experiments), The Brain Image Library (microscopy data), Data Archive for the BRAIN Initiative (data related to human electrophysiology experiments), OpenNeuro (magnetic resonance imaging data), and Block and Object Storage Service (electron microscopy data). Additional data archives are expected to be funded, and a complete list of BRAIN Initiative informatics infrastructure awards (including data standards and software) can be found here.

For BRAIN Initiative applications submitted after March 1, 2020, applicants will be required to share the data they collect using the BRAIN Initiative informatics infrastructure. This requirement comes from authorities granted to NIH through the 21st Century Cures Act. BRAIN Initiative fellowship applicants are exempt from this requirement but are encouraged to use the informatics infrastructure as part of their training activities.

The general expectation is that data from BRAIN Initiative awards will be submitted to the archives every 6 months, which will be distinct from sharing that data with the research community. Frequent submission allows those measuring the data to perform quality control checks as the data are deposited. Additionally, submitting the data on an ongoing basis is often easier than packaging accumulated data at the end of an award period. After the data have been submitted to the appropriate data archive, it will be shared with the research community when papers using the data have been published or at the end of the award period, whichever occurs sooner.

Applications to BRAIN Initiative FOAs will also be required to include a Resource Sharing Plan that details a summary of data to be shared, standard(s) used to describe the data, the data archive(s) to house the data, and a proposed timeline for archiving and sharing the data with the research community. For applications that involve human subjects, the Resource Sharing Plan should have a description of whether and how the consents that will be used to obtain that data will affect the research that can be done with that data.

This informatics infrastructure will offer BRAIN researchers repositories for collaboration and data sharing across their diverse disciplines. The intent of this Notice is to therefore encourage and enable rapid progress in the development of new tools and techniques, as well as in theory and data analysis, through data archiving and sharing.

The Journal of Neuroscience recently published two commentaries on neuroethics for the NIH BRAIN Initiative: a set of eight guiding principles for neuroethical considerations in neuroscience research, as well as an accompanying commentary on neuroethics strategy and operationalization from NIH Institute Directors involved in BRAIN. 

The ethical imperative surrounding the pursuit of neuroscience research, and the critical integration of neuroethics into that research, underscore the importance of considering the ethical, legal, and societal implications of scientific study. From the beginning, the NIH BRAIN Initiative has worked diligently to integrate neuroethics into its science, motivated by the understanding that brain circuit activity forms the foundation of human experiences (e.g., perception, thought, action), which is uniquely entwined with our sense of personal identity.

In recognition of the many important ethical questions related to the conduct and use of neuroscience research, NIH established the Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG), comprised of both neuroethicists and neuroscientists. This group provides expert input on neuroethics, and helps to ensure that neuroethical considerations are fully integrated into the Initiative.

To foster ongoing and engaging dialogue surrounding ethics in neuroscience research, the NEWG has published guiding neuroethical principles for the NIH BRAIN Initiative. These eight principles (see Figure below) provide an overarching framework that can help inform dialogues among stakeholders, including investigators, clinicians, institutional review boards, funders, research participants, patients, and the public, both in the design and conduct of research as they grapple with ethical questions elicited by the Initiative that call for wider discussion and deeper understanding.

For example, scientists sometimes conduct in vivo neuroscience research with patients undergoing neurosurgery for clinical indications. Several of the guiding principles help to frame ethical questions associated with this kind of research, including 1. Making assessing safety paramount; 2. Anticipating special issues related to capacity, autonomy, and agency; 3. Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of neural data; and 6. Identifying and addressing specific concerns of the public about the brain. In particular, Principle 2 presents a unique neuroethical issue – namely, how precise modulation of circuit function might affect a person’s autonomy, agency, and identity. In this research space, the neuroethics guiding principles can help researchers to navigate potentially challenging questions that arise. For more information, please view the videocast of the NEWG symposium on this topic.

Accompanying these guiding principles is a commentary from NIH Institute Directors involved in the NIH BRAIN Initiative, outlining the neuroethics strategy and operationalization of neuroethics integration into the NIH BRAIN Initiative’s research portfolio.

These guiding principles offer points of consideration, as researchers and other stakeholders navigate the difficult questions that BRAIN Initiative research will pose to society. Alongside this ongoing dialogue, a robust neuroethics infrastructure will help ensure that neuroscience research is held to the highest ethical standards for the public that it serves.