The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative has just received its first wave of NIH funds in the amount of $46 million. Fifty-eight projects were announced as part of the Initiative as well, including creating a wearable scanner to image the human brain in motion, using lasers to guide the firing of nerve cells, recording the entire nervous system in action, stimulating specific circuits with radio waves, and identifying complex circuits with DNA barcodes.

The majority of the grants, the NIH says, are focused on developing technologies that could speed up neuroscience research. These include classifying the different cell types in the brain, producing tools and techniques for analyzing brain cells and circuits, creating next-generation human brain imaging technology, developing methods for large-scale recordings of brain activity, and integrating experiments with theories and models to understand the functions of specific brain circuits.

President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative last year as a large-scale effort to create a map of the brain in action to help in treating brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, and autism. The NIH, the National Science Foundation, the FDA, and DARPA have all committed more than $110 million to the Initiative for fiscal year 2014. Cornelia (Cori) Bargmann, Ph.D., of Rockefeller University and William Newsome, Ph.D., of Stanford University are co-chairs of the BRAIN Initiative.

“There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible,” Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIH's director, said in a statement. “These initial awards are part of a 12-year scientific plan focused on developing the tools and technologies needed to make the next leap in understanding the brain. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey and we’re excited about the possibilities.”

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