Translational tidbits

Focusing the BRAIN

The NIH's BRAIN initiative has developed a road map for its near-term research priorities, chief among which is conducting a census of brain cells. Whether the ambitious, decades-long project will be funded at anticipated levels will depend on the outcome of Washington's stalled budget talks.

When BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) was announced in April, President Barack Obama and NIH director Francis Collins claimed that the project would yield technologies to image and model living human brains and techniques for manipulating brain activity in patients with neurological diseases.

Academic neuroscience researchers expressed mixed views on the initiative. Some liked the prospect for more funding, but others were concerned about the project's seemingly nebulous aims and the possible diversion of research dollars from traditionally focused research.1

To address concerns about how to proceed with BRAIN, at the time of the project's announcement the NIH convened a working group of 15 prominent neuroscientists to define the project's overall aims and funding priorities.

The working group, which was cochaired by Cornelia Bargmann and William Newsome, published an interim report on its recommendations in September.

Bargmann is a professor and laboratory head at The Rockefeller University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Newsome is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University and an HHMI investigator.

The most basic recommendation of the working group was to catalog all the different cell types found in the brain. In its interim report, the group argued that surveying the brains of animal models and human anatomical specimens to establish a census of neuronal and glial cells

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