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Obama Unveils Vast Brain-Mapping Project
Date:4/3/2013

By Margaret Farley Steele
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama administration unveiled plans Tuesday for a mammoth and unprecedented study of the mysterious inner workings of the human brain.

President Barack Obama, who first cited the need for brain research in his State of the Union address in February, asked Congress to commit $100 million in 2014 for the 10-year project, which will record and map brain circuits in action.

The initiative will involve scientists, government agencies and private foundations teaming up to create a detailed map of the brain, which is composed of billions of neurons, or nerve cells. The hope is the findings will lead to a better understanding of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and autism, as well as psychiatric conditions and brain injuries.

The White House said in a statement Tuesday that the goal of the project -- called the BRAIN Initiative, for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies -- will be "to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind" and create jobs.

The president told scientists gathered in the White House East Room that the research, which he called one of the administration's "Grand Challenges," has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide, according to the Associated Press.

"As humans, we can identify galaxies light-years away," Obama said. "We can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears."

The effort will require new tools, not yet available to neuroscientists, that need to be developed to record hundreds of thousands of neurons at once. And, as part of the initiative, Obama was expected to require a study of the ethical and legal implications of such advances in neuroscience, The New York Times reported.

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