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Videocast will be available for the open session of the upcoming BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG) meeting on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

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 thirteenth meeting of the MCWG will occur on Thursday, May 16, 2019, at the Neuroscience Conference Center, Conference Rooms C/D (6001 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852). The videocast may be accessed here.

The open session will include presentations on BRAIN 2.0 efforts. First, there will be an update from Dr. John Maunsell, co-chair of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) BRAIN Initiative Working Group (WG) 2.0, which is sharing with the community its initial thoughts on the current state of the BRAIN Initiative and inviting public comment. Please submit comments through the Request for Information (RFI) or by emailing BRAINfeedback@nih.gov by May 15, 2019. There will also be an update from Dr. Jim Eberwine, co-chair of the ACD Working Group on BRAIN 2.0 Neuroethics Subgroup (BNS). The BNS is welcoming comments from the public on draft findings and analysis detailed in the Neuroethics Roadmap. The BNS has also provided analysis and findings to the ACD Working Group on BRAIN 2.0 for inclusion in their initial thoughts. Please submit comments to BNS@nih.gov by May 20, 2019.

A written summary and a link to the video archive of the open session from the May MCWG meeting will be posted on the BRAIN MCWG webpage after it has concluded.

Initial thoughts on BRAIN’s strategic plan from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0 are open for public comment through May 15, 2019. In parallel, a draft Neuroethics Roadmap from the BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup is now open for public comment through May 20, 2019.

The Advisory Committee to the NIH Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0, formed in April 2018, has been working tirelessly to assess BRAIN’s progress and advances within the context of the original BRAIN 2025 report, identify key opportunities to apply new and emerging tools to revolutionize our understanding of brain circuits, and designate valuable areas of continued technology development. Over the course of the last year, the Working Group has undertaken a deliberative and open process consisting of portfolio review, scientific workshops, town halls, and public solicitation.

Continuing in this manner, the Working Group is sharing with the community its initial thoughts on the current state of the BRAIN Initiative, including opportunities for keeping pace with the evolving scientific landscape, including the identification of new opportunities for research and technology development, within a solid ethical framework, to ensure BRAIN Initiative research is of the utmost value to the public it intends to serve. Please submit comments through the Request for Information (RFI) or by emailing BRAINfeedback@nih.gov by May 15, 2019.

In parallel, the ACD Working Group on BRAIN 2.0 Neuroethics Subgroup (BNS) was formed to develop a Neuroethics Roadmap for the NIH BRAIN Initiative; review priority areas identified in the BRAIN 2025 Strategic Plan, incorporating updates from the broader BRAIN 2.0 Working Group; and characterize the neuroethical implications that may arise as BRAIN Initiative investments produce new tool/neurotechnologies, and/or those tools/neurotechnologies are applied to advancing the goals of the NIH BRAIN Initiative.

The BNS has conducted a portfolio review and held a public workshop on neuroethical issues posed by research through the BRAIN Initiative. The BNS is now welcoming comments from the public on draft findings and analysis detailed in the Neuroethics Roadmap. The Neuroethics Subgroup has also provided analysis and findings to the Working Group on BRAIN 2.0 for inclusion in the Working Group’s initial thoughts. Please submit comments to BNS@nih.gov by May 20, 2019.

Both groups will consider all public responses as they iterate their findings and analysis, which they will present to the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) for consideration at its meeting on June 13-14, 2019.

Three new receipt dates have been added to this funding opportunity announcement (FOA): November 6, 2019; July 1, 2020; and November 10, 2020.

This announcement provides a notice (NOT-NS-19-034) that three new receipt dates have been added to “BRAIN Initiative: Targeted BRAIN Circuits Planning Projects – TargetedBCPP (R34 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)” (RFA-NS-18-014).

The primary goal of this funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is to solicit exploratory research projects using innovative approaches to understand how circuit activity gives rise to a specific behavior or neural system dynamics. The R34 mechanism provides up to two years of funding in the BRAIN Understanding Circuits portfolio. It is intended to support a limited scope of aims and an approach that will establish feasibility, validity, or other technically qualifying results that, if successful, would support, enable, and/or lay the groundwork for a potential, subsequent Targeted BRAIN Circuits Projects – TargetedBCP R01 (up to five years of funding), as described in the companion FOA (RFA-NS-18-030).

The BRAIN Understanding Circuits program encompasses a family of “Integrated and Quantitative Approaches to Understanding Circuits” FOAs. The activity of neural circuits is the substrate of cognitive processes such as perception, attention, reasoning, intention, decision-making, and emotion. These internal activities are translated into patterns of activation that support simple motor behaviors, as well as more complex behaviors.

The three additional receipt dates for RFA-NS-18-014 are November 6, 2019; July 1, 2020; and November 10, 2020.

The next application deadline for the BRAIN Initiative Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00) is June 12, 2019 (resubmission deadline is July 12, 2019).

The NIH BRAIN Initiative Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00) program aims to enhance diversity in the neuroscience workforce and maintain a strong cohort of new and talented, NIH-supported, independent investigators from diverse backgrounds in BRAIN Initiative research areas.

This program is designed to facilitate a timely transition of outstanding postdoctoral researchers with a research and/or clinical doctorate degree from mentored, postdoctoral research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions. The program will provide independent NIH research support during this transition in order to help awardees launch competitive, independent research careers.

More information about applications can be found under PAR-18-813 (Independent Clinical Trial Required) and PAR-18-814 (Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Additional resources, including a technical assistance webinar, are available at: https://www.braininitiative.nih.gov/brain-programs/training.

The next deadline for new applications to the BRAIN Initiative Diversity K99/R00 is June 12, 2019 (resubmissions: July 12, 2019).

 

 

The fifth annual BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting, held from April 11-13, 2019 in Washington, DC, convened approximately 1600 registrants. In tandem, the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0 previewed and has now released their draft report, which is open for public comment through May 15, 2019.

From April 11-13, 2019, the Wardman Park Marriott in Washington, DC, hosted the fifth annual BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting. The meeting convened approximately 1600 registrants, including BRAIN Initiative awardees, staff, and leadership from the contributing federal agencies (NIH, NSF, DARPA, IARPA, and FDA), as well as representatives and investigators from participating non-federal organizations, members of the media, public, and Congress.

This year’s meeting featured plenary sessions from: Dr. Paola Arlotta (Harvard University), Dr. Patricia Churchland (University of California), Dr. Marcus Meister (California Institute of Technology), and Dr. Edvard Moser (Kavli Institute for Neuroscience). On the first day of the meeting, the NIH Advisory Council to the Director (ACD) BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0 and BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup held a Town Hall, moderated by NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins. There, the co-chairs of both groups – Drs. Catherine Dulac, John Maunsell, Jim Eberwine, and Jeff Kahn – previewed the findings of their draft report on how best to accomplish the ambitious vision for the BRAIN Initiative, considering the current state of neuroscience. The Working Group’s draft report is now available for public comment via a Request for Information, with the BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup’s Roadmap being released later this month for public comment. All of the plenary sessions, as well as the Town Hall, were videocast, archived, and are available for streaming on the NIH Videocast website.

For the first time this year, attendee-organized symposia highlighted emerging areas of focus in BRAIN. Some of these topics included: Bridging Animal and Human Brain Research with fMRI, Emerging Technologies in Studying Spinal Cord Circuitry and Dynamics, Advances in Mapping Neural Connectivity, and Neuropharmacology at the Age of the BRAIN Cell-Census. Along with these symposia, Research Highlight Talks provided platforms for BRAIN Initiative awardees to discuss their latest scientific advances. Additionally, Focused Sessions provided forum opportunities for those interested in specialized topics, such as the BRAIN Initiative Informatics Infrastructure and Frontiers of Non-Invasive Brain Imaging. A session on neuroethics featured active collaborations between neuroscientists and neuroethicists, including one on the neuroethical implications of portable magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). For more information, see this coverage from Science Magazine.

Drs. Michael Garwood and Francis Shen, who collaborate with Ben Parkinson and Mailin Lemke (Victoria University of Wellington), as well as William McGeveran and Susan Wolf (University of Minnesota), discuss the neuroethical implications of portable neuroimaging.

The 2019 Meeting also featured a three-part science communications series. On Thursday, April 11, NPR’s Jon Hamilton presented a workshop on talking to the public about BRAIN science to a packed room. On Friday, April 12, Betsy Stark, an Emmy Award winning journalist and former ABC News Business Correspondent, led a workshop on talking to the media about BRAIN science. Finally, on Saturday, April 13, Rohan Verma, Vice President at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, led a workshop on using social media to promote BRAIN science.

Jon Hamilton, correspondent for NPR’s Science Desk, discusses talking to the public about BRAIN science.

Finalists from the first Show Us Your BRAINS! Cool Picture and Video Contest had their photos and videos on display throughout the meeting, where attendees could vote on their favorites. The inaugural winners were announced on the last day of the meeting: Congratulations to Andrew Janson at the SCI Institute for the winning photo submission, and to the Yang and Chung Research Groups for the winning video submission.

The winning photo submission from the first Show Us Your BRAINS! Cool Picture and Video Contest, entitled “Light Me Up”, from Andrew Janson at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute. The winning video submission from the first Show Us Your BRAINS! Cool Picture and Video Contest, from X. William Yang’s research group at UCLA and Kwanghun Chung’s research group at MIT.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the sixth annual BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting in 2020!

Contributions of the basal ganglia to speech production … High-speed volumetric microscopy of freely-moving Drosophila larvae … Identifying functional neuron subclasses with specificity …

Differences in timing and direction of basal ganglia firing accompany speech production

Translating thought into spoken words is one of the most complicated human motor behaviors, and the basal ganglia in the brain play a role in control of most complex movements. Impairments in speech production due to neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease) and speech disorders, such as stuttering, have been linked to malfunctioning of the basal ganglia. However, no studies have yet explored in detail how the basal ganglia, which include the subthalamic nucleus (STN) neurons, contribute to human speech. To identify how the basal ganglia regulate speech, Dr. R. Mark Richardson and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh established a protocol to record from STN neurons while patients performed a speech task. Twelve patients undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s disease read aloud word cues presented on a computer screen. A high percentage of the STN neurons in these patients changed activity during the speech production process. Some neurons decreased activity, mostly during early cognitive stages of speech, which involved processing the word cue. In contrast, other neurons strongly increased activity, often during the later stages, when the vocal cords are activated to produce speech output. These findings are the first to define a role for STN neurons in speech production, suggesting that separate STN populations with distinct functions act at different stages of speech. This elegant, pioneering work done by Dr. Richardson’s team establishes a foundation for advancing studies of basal ganglia function in human speech.

STN neuronal firing rate varies in timing and direction during the experimental task. These plots show increases (top, in red), decreases (middle, in blue), or mixed responses (bottom) in STN neuronal firing relative to the onset of the task cue presentation (indicated by “c”) or end of speech output (indicated by “e”) during the task. Decreases in STN firing were more closely associated with cue presentation, whereas increases in STN firing were more closely associated with motor speech output.

High-speed volumetric microscopy shows movement dynamics of Drosophila larvae

Careful coordination and awareness of body position is required in order to move and act in the world, and proprioceptors provide feedback about body position that is essential for this coordinated movement. Learning how body position is dynamically encoded is key to understanding how sensory activity is transformed into action, but studying proprioceptors dynamics in freely moving animals has been very difficult. Here, Dr. Elizabeth Hillman and colleagues at Columbia University utilized their previously-developed multispectral, high-speed, volumetric swept confocally aligned planar excitation (SCAPE) microscope to characterize proprioceptor system dynamics in live, freely moving Drosophila larvae. This approach allowed the group to examine real-time spatiotemporal and functional dynamics in Drosophila proprioceptors as the larvae contracted and extended segments during crawling, as well as during exploratory head movements. Most proprioceptive neurons increased activity during segment contraction, with different proprioceptors exhibiting sequential activity to create a continuum of feedback during forward crawling. Timing of activity was associated with distinct dendrite morphologies and movement dynamics, suggesting that proprioceptors monitor different features of segment deformation. This research suggests that there is a set of proprioceptors that provides sensory feedback to the diverse movements of the larval body. By investigating how a range of proprioceptive neurons can encode forward locomotion and exploration behavior during naturalistic movement, this finding holds important implications for models of sensory feedback, including understanding the neural mechanisms underlying movement in freely behaving animals.

High-speed, volumetric SCAPE microscopy was used to capture the activity of proprioceptive neurons inside freely moving Drosophila larvae. The high-resolution imaging approach allowed researchers to view a continuum of sensory feedback from proprioceptive neurons during forward crawling and exploratory head movements. Central structure (in pink) is the larva’s ventral nerve cord.

Selective targeting of functional circuits in rodent and primate hippocampus using viral vectors

Multiple approaches have been taken to link the neurons in circuits to behavior. Research with transgenic model organisms allows precision in interrogating specific cell populations, but these models are costly and time-consuming to produce. Viral vectors are simpler to generate and easy to deploy, but often broadly affect cells in the brain. Here, Dr. Boris Zemelman and colleagues achieved specificity with viral vector approaches. They developed combinatorial strategies using viral promoters for accessing specific neuronal subclasses in mouse and primate hippocampus. Their novel method leveraged broad access, before using interdependent viruses to target specific cell subpopulations. The group first used an intersectional approach, using viral vectors to label two promoters for subclasses of GABAergic neurons. After identifying these populations, they then used viruses to restrict access to specific excitatory and inhibitory subpopulations, by effectively subtracting the expression patterns of one promoter from the other. By replicating this result across multiple species, the researchers found that when the regions demonstrating the same pattern of gene expression were conserved across species, functional circuit specificity was conserved as well. This result carries important potential for future investigations. By using combinatorial methods to refine genetic targeting, a method for brain-wide study of functionally significant cell populations – without dependence on transgenic models – may be possible.

Hippocampal excitatory neurons (bottom) were targeted and isolated using a set difference strategy – subtracting inhibitory interneurons from all other neurons.

 

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.

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