US BRAIN Initiative to collaborate with the EU Human Brain Project

US and European Brain-mapping projects to join forces

Brain Initiative at NIH
BRAIN Initiative – the Human Brain Project

According to a Nature magazine news two large brain mapping programs – the US BRAIN Initiative and the EU Human Brain Project will start to collaborate and coordinate research activities later.

The White House BRAIN Initiative is a collaborative, public-private research initiative announced by the Obama administration on April 2, 2013, with the goal of supporting the dynamic understanding of brain function. Inspired by the Human Genome Project, the BRAIN Initiative aims to help researchers uncover the mysteries of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, depression, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The US $1-billion brain mapping program, the BRAIN Initiative stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. The program major goal is to advance our understanding of the human brain and to accelerate the development and application of innovative technologies.

Thus, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. This picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.

Participants in BRAIN and affiliates of the project include DARPA and IARPA as well as numerous private companies, universities, and other organizations in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Denmark.

The BRAIN Initiative involves seven major sections such as: Cell Type; Circuit Diagrams; Monitor Neural Activity; Interventional Tools; Theory and Data Analysis Tools; Advance Human Neuroscience and Integrated Approaches.

The European €1-billion Human Brain Project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and is using cutting-edge research infrastructure, aimed to advance our knowledge in the field of neuroscience.

The Human Brain Project (HBP), which started on 1 October 2013 is a large ten-year scientific research project, based on exascale supercomputers, that aims to build a collaborative ICT-based scientific research infrastructure to allow researchers across Europe to advance knowledge in the fields of neuroscience, computing, and brain-related medicine.

The Human Brain Project (HBP) is the European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship. The HBP’s research infrastructure is focused on brain research, cognitive neuroscience and brain-inspired computing. The Project includes 116 Partners in 19 countries in Europe and around the world. All these partners drive and manage the Project’s research in neuroscience, computing, and medicine. The HBP counts nine Work Packages: three Science Work Packages, three Infrastructure Work Packages, and three Overarching Activity Work Packages

Fundamental to the HBP approach is to investigate the brain on different spatial and temporal scales (i.e. from the molecular to the large networks underlying higher cognitive processes, and from milliseconds to years). To achieve this goal, the HBP relies on the collaboration of scientists from diverse disciplines, including neuroscience, philosophy and computer science, to take advantage of the loop of experimental data, modelling theories and simulations. The idea is that empirical results are used to develop theories, which then foster modelling and simulations which result in predictions that are in turn verified by empirical results.

As per the Nature magazine news article, in the US – Europe’s collaboration all of the US BRAIN Initiative‘s government partners will be involved. This includes the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

According to Sean Hill, the neuroscientist who co-directs the HBP’s neuroinformatics team, the US and EU initiatives complement each other – the BRAIN Initiative’s goal is to “create tools for imaging and controlling brain activity”, whereas the HBP is aimed to “create a working computational model of the entire brain”.

Some researchers working on BRAIN and HBP have already begun to coordinate their research informally. The Allen Institute for Brain Research in Seattle, Washington — a BRAIN Initiative partner — has published papers on neural simulations it produced in collaboration with the HBP.

Furthermore, and as stated by Donald Stein, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, this international collaboration is “a chance for the US and European efforts to get the most out of their budgets and workforce”. Importantly, he believes that the collaboration will encourage funding agencies to support high-risk research projects.

Read More: Nature