Leading Neuroscientists Weigh In On Importance of New BRAIN Initiative

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The BRAIN Initiative
The BRAIN Initiative

Two Foundation-funded Distinguished Investigators, Eric R. Kandel, M.D. and Rafael Yuste, M.D., Ph.D., both of Columbia University, were among five leaders in neuroscience research asked by the editors of the prestigious journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience to assess several new and highly ambitious big-budget projects that aim to transform our knowledge of the human brain.

Their remarks, appearing in the journal’s September 2013 issue, were sober and realistic, yet strongly encouraging. The new projects discussed include President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative and the Human Brain Project in Europe, both of which are still in the planning stages.

“The long-term goal of these projects is to gain a better understanding” of how the human brain works, Dr. Kandel said. Yet, the 2000 Nobel Prizewinner noted, “there are no precedents for this. The Human Genome Project was important and successfully executed, but it was much simpler.” The goal of the Genome Project had a known end goal―to obtain the whole sequence of nucleotides that makes up the human genome―and was largely a challenge of organization and production. “For these large neuroscience projects, we do not have a genetic code,” Dr. Kandel explains.

In spite of the lofty ambition of the projects, Dr. Kandel underlines the importance of their potential contribution: “The potential impact of these projects is enormous. The most important would be to better understand, and therefore be able to treat, the devastating diseases of the brain that haunt human kind: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, Alzheimer’s disease... the list goes on.”

According to Dr. Yuste, a current NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee—and one of the six authors of a paper in Neuron in June, 2012 cited by The New York Times as having influenced President Obama’s team to launch a program to "unlock the mysteries of the brain"—says the the BRAIN Initiative will focus on the development of bold new technologies. New technologies will provide the tools to enable novel understanding of how the brain works―in health, but also, importantly, in illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and autism, he explains. “The exact focus is being decided by the three funding agencies involved and their panels of experts and will become clear in a couple of months. I expect it will focus on technologies to perform systematic measurements and manipulations of the activity of large numbers of neurons in animal models and in human patients,” he said.

Dr. Yuste added, “I think that developing novel methods for monitoring and manipulating the activity of neuronal circuits is the best investment one can make today for the future of neuroscience.”

Dr. Kandel told the Nature editors that it would be very important for these projects to “begin with tractable goals.” A three-time recipient of NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants and member of the Scientific Council of the Brain and Behavior Foundation, Dr. Kandel also warned that the new initiatives would only be able to fulfill their immense promise if they were backed by sustained public investment.

Learn more about The BRAIN Initiative in this article from The Quarterly, Summer 2013.

Journal Abstract

Article comments

It is inevitable that this initiative will eventually drain much-needed funds from other, equally if not more important, research projects that are aimed directly at understanding and treating mental illness.

Mybe someone can address the dangers of anti phycotic medication on the human body and how it rarely helps or cures the patient beyond sedation. I was medicated by prolixin recently and it was like a liquid lombotomy. and caused extreme weight gain and brain damage and did not help my symptoms at al further the doctors claimed being bed ridden and fainting I was doing better. I was being medicated because I was rude to staff and the doctor not a danger to myself or others. I also now im not being medicated dur to a Montana supreme court order indicating that im not to be medicated triumph in a arcaic backwards system. or maybe closed minded system is better dicription of phyciatrists handing out liquid lombotomies instead of theropy. therapy helps the person be succseful in society medication causes more disfunctions. I know by experience that it never helped me with false beliefs or what they call delusions. And it was so physically impairing that it medication caused new mental and physical health problems.Its still forced in stae run institutions and this should be addressed by the government.rights to choose ones treatment and be part of their treatment plans does not exsist in the mental health industry on the state levels.

I think the brain initiative is the great deception. In "Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence" by Springer on page nine it states that law enforcement would have you believe that we can only be safe if they know where you are, what you are doing and what your are "thinking" at all times. The Brain Initiative is funding to unfurl a ubiquitous surveillance system. I recently read the BioInitiative Report 2012. Virginia State Police and Newport News/Hampton police had Dr. Lawrence Chang, Pariser Dermatology, without my knowlege and consent' implant me with a microchip. He removed a birthmark and implanted it on January 8, 2010. On May 26, 2013, he removed a lymphoma tumor from around it but refuses to remove the microchip. It's against the law in Virginia. During these years, police have used lasers, masers, active denial system, etc. to electronically rape, sodomize and torture me. It is excruciatingly painful. I am headed to the supreme court to do battle for all victims of this heinous torture. Read "The Long Walk" by Brian Castner. I have never been to war, but we have something in common - the microchip. We have something else - as he puts it, "This is my new life. It's intolerable." If I win my lawsuit, I am taking this chip off every vet I can. The problem is - you can't help those that took their life rather than be tortured. Virginia has a $600 million dollar surplus this year - not doubt from unethical research. You can find their whole deception under darpa's - the mind weapon. You can see the horrific health effects in BioInitiative Report 2012. If you come to Virginia - beware of law enforcement - they're criminals.

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