NIH Proposes Multibillion Dollar Increase in Funding for BRAIN Initiative

On June 5, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called for $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years—beginning in Fiscal 2016—for research as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a White House-sponsored research effort announced by President Obama last year. This would quadruple the initial budget for the multiyear project from $100 million a year for the next five years to $400 million a year.

“How the brain works and gives rise to our mental and intellectual lives will be the most exciting and challenging area of science in the 21st century,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. (pictured above with Obama) “As a result of this concerted effort, new technologies will be invented, new industries spawned, and new treatments and even cures discovered for devastating disorders and diseases of the brain and nervous system.”

The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how such factors interplay to create specific cognitive and behavioral capabilities. The NIH plans to achieve goals through the following core principles:

  • Identify and provide experimental access to the different brain cell types to determine their roles in health and disease.
  • Generate circuit diagrams that vary in resolution from synapses to the whole brain.
  • Produce a dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity.
  • Link brain activity to behavior with precise interventional tools that change neural circuit dynamics.
  • Produce conceptual foundations for understanding the biological basis of mental processes through development of new theoretical and data analysis tools.
  • Develop innovative technologies to understand the human brain and treat its disorders; create and support integrated brain research networks.
  • Integrate new technological and conceptual approaches produced in the other goals to discover how dynamic patterns of neural activity are transformed into cognition, emotion, perception, and action in health and disease.

The NIH emphasized that its cost estimates for the budget for the BRAIN Initiative will be needed to supplement—not supplant—the agency’s existing investment in the broader spectrum of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research.

Click here to read the NIH press release for the new budget proposal for the BRIAN Initiative. For more information on the BRIAN Initiative, see the Psychiatric News articles, “BRAIN Initiative Seeks Innovations For Studying Circuits and Cells,” and “Advisory Group Draws Roadmap for President’s BRAIN Initiative.”

Unlocking the Secrets of Schizophrenia

By Dina Al Qassar, NAMI Intern

Schizophrenia continues to confound the minds of scientists and researchers alike. Affecting 1% of the human population, the culprit behind this illness is still unknown. There has been research investigating the causes of schizophrenia, and although scientists have known that it runs in families there isn’t any evidence indicating that the causes are purely genetic. The belief is that both genetic and environmental factors play equal parts in the development of schizophrenia.

There have been speculations about the causes, including but not limited to: prenatal factors (viral infections during the pregnancy, malnourishment, stress); environment factors (emotional, physical, or sexual abuse); abnormalities in the brain structure (irregularities in the size of the prefrontal and temporal lobes), neurotransmitter imbalances (high levels of dopamine and low levels of serotonin), etc… yet there aren’t any definite links between a single factor and the disease.

Due to the unique nature of schizophrenia it is very hard to find the causes of the illness. Recently however, a significant pattern emerged between schizophrenia and inheritance that was revealed by looking at the way schizophrenia is more prevalent in some families; this spurred the genetic investigation of the matter.

Schizophrenia - schizophrénie

Schizophrenia – schizophrénie (Photo credit:

According to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in his blog post from Jan. 28, “Exploring the Complex Genetics of Schizophrenia,” new developments in DNA sequences technology have allowed scientists to look at the “actual DNA sequence of the protein-coding region of the entire genome for thousands of individuals with schizophrenia.” This would then give further insight into the nature of the genetic variations and if there is a direct relationship between these genetic mutations and the illness.

For the rest of this article CLICK HERE to visit the NAMI National Site.

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