DARPA initiative pushes for brain reading technology

The Obama administration plans to announce Tuesday that it has recruited new federal agencies and a number of universities, foundations and businesses to help pursue the goals of the Brain Initiative, which the president started in 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/us/more-groups-join-project-on-the-brain.html?ref=us
Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation, in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said that private institutions were joining by “aligning” $270 million of their neuroscience research with the goals and plans of the initiative.
Google, General Electric, companies involved in optics and other technologies, several universities and the Simons Foundation, which recently started its own brain study program, will be included in the announcement.
Federal agencies that are planning involvement are the Food and Drug Administration and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, which supports research of interest to government intelligence agencies.
The Brain Initiative began in April 2013, amid a growing consensus among researchers that while much progress had been made on understanding single brain cells and the large-scale organization of the brain, science was falling behind on decoding the brain in action.
The initiative was set up to foster new technologies and basic research that would reveal how the brain works at a deep level.
This year three federal agencies split $100 million in research money, which neuroscientists welcomed, but which some criticized as too little to accomplish the grand goals of transforming brain science.
For 2015, the administration has asked for $200 million for all the agencies involved. The National Institutes of Health, part of the initiative, has proposed a $4.5 billion, 12-year program as part of the overall effort. Cori Bargmann, co-chairwoman of an N.I.H. committee that set forth the
agency’s plan for research under the initiative, said that $100 million — the institutes’ portion of the recommended 2015 funding — is appropriate, given the plan to ramp up gradually. “From N.I.H.’s perspective, this is exactly what year two should look like,” she said.
The N.I.H. will have its own news conference Tuesday, detailing where $46 million in 2014 grants are going, with an emphasis on new technologies.
The National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are also part of the initiative.
The Simons Foundation’s new program is called the Collaboration on the Global Brain.
David W. Tank, co-director of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute who is leading the Simons effort, said that that project was independently planned, but that it was aligned with the Brain Initiative in the sense that it was “supplementary and synergistic,” not pursuing new tools so much as understanding the results those tools might bring.

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