BRAIN Initiative Feature Stories

BeckmanUCIThe dentate gyrus of the mouse hippocampus using Brainbow transgenes. This technology, developed by researchers at Harvard University, uses genetic methods to label individual nerve cells in different colors to identify and track axons and dendrites over long distances. (Credit: Jeff Lichtman)

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, launched by President Obama in 2013, aims to advance the science and technologies needed to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. It is a broad, collaborative effort to accelerate the development and application of a new generation of tools to study how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. These new technologies will help scientists explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores and retrieves information and will illuminate the complex links between brain structure, function and behavior.

A working group convened by the National Institutes of Health, one of four federal agencies partnering on the BRAIN Initiative, identified seven priority areas for brain research, from identifying the diversity of cell types in the brain to advancing human neuroscience. To achieve breakthroughs in these areas, the BRAIN Initiative is funding interdisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers from many disciplines and sectors.

In addition to the federal agencies, The BRAIN Initiative’s partners include private foundations (including The Kavli Foundation), research institutes, universities and industry.

Scientists Want to Use Brain Implants to Tune the Mind

Mar 15, 2017

Can new technologies be used to treat mental illness or enhance memory? Three brain researchers—Helen Mayberg, Brian Litt and Jose Carmena—are betting on it.

The BRAIN Initiative: Three Years at the Frontiers of Neuroscience

Fruit fly brain
Oct 12, 2016

A group of scientists and funders—Walter Koroshetz (NIHO, James Olds (NSF), Christine Payne (Georgia Tech) and Terrence Sejnowski (Salk Institute)—reflect on what the BRAIN Initiative has already achieved and how it is evolving.

Creating a Perfect Brain Storm

Brainbow neurons
Sep 16, 2016

Nations around the world are making unprecedented investments in brain research. How will each one leave its mark—and what could they achieve together?

Identifying the Brain’s Essential Elements

3D neurons
Nov 19, 2015

A database of brain cells, and the new software platform that supports it, may finally reveal the cells’ identities—and supply scientists with a parts list for the brain. Christof Koch and Chinh Dang from the Allen Institute for Brain Science and Kenneth Harris from University College London explain.

Spotlight Live: A Call for 'Brain Observatories'

Oct 14, 2015

How should the BRAIN Initiative evolve to unite and synergize the hundreds of individual laboratories it currently funds? Six researchers now propose a national network of neurotechnology centers, or “brain observatories.” Paul Alivisatos, Miyoung Chun, Michael Roukes and Rafael Yuste — four of the paper’s authors — answer your questions about this new idea and how it might affect the future of neuroscience.

A Roundtable with the Kavli Neural Systems Institute

Oct 01, 2015

Rockefeller University's new Kavli Institute will invest in the best ideas and brightest investigators to answer the most important questions in neuroscience. A discussion with the co-directors, Cori Bargmann and Jeffrey Friedman, and the associate director, Leslie Vosshall.

The Future of Neurotechnology: A Roundtable Discussion

May 20, 2015

Four Kavli neuroscientists — Rafael Yuste, Ken Shepard, Liam Paninski and Darcy Peterka, from Columbia University — reflect on the major obstacles in brain research today and the remarkable new technologies that may soon overcome them.

Kavli Futures Symposium: Meet the Toolmakers

 Neurons in the retina
May 20, 2015

Late last year, some of the nation’s top neuroscientists and tech innovators gathered in New York to talk shop at a Kavli Futures Symposium. By the end of the event, the future of neurotechnology never looked so bright.

The NeuroTechnology Center Launches at Columbia: Interview with Director Rafael Yuste

Rafael Yuste
Dec 01, 2014

Neuroscience is in the midst of a technological leap that is enabling researchers to study the brain in unprecedented detail. With the launch last month of the NeuroTechnology Center, Columbia University has officially joined the neurotechnology race.

It Takes the World to Map the Brain

Nov 15, 2014

Leaders from the U.S. BRAIN Initiative, Europe’s Human Brain Project and Japan’s Brain/MINDS discuss their ambitious projects, which are aimed at nothing less than transforming our understanding of the human brain.


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