The lowdown on the BRAIN initiative: it’s moving fast and it’s going to be big

November 11, 2013

obamaIn a special session about the BRAIN initiative, a panel of experts reported on the current plans for implementing the BRAIN initiative. The initiative was announced this spring and was described by President Obama as the next great American project. A working group, which includes Bill Newsome, Cori Bargman, Terri Sejnowski and others have been hard at work laying a plan for how to implement the initiative. They came up with a list of recommendations which include goals such as linking neural activity to behavior and integrating theory, modeling and computation. The group also emphasized that there must be a means to disseminate the technologies that are developed as part of the initiative. This is key: through dissemination of technology, the effects of the initiative can reach far beyond the funded labs and impact a larger community of scientists. Geoff Ling feels particularly passionate about these tools. He argues that as neuroscientists, we have no shortage of compelling hypotheses, but that “we are stymied by the tools we have available to test our hypotheses.” I partially agree: good tools are necessary, but we need to think deeply about what the fundamental hypotheses are and how to test them.

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