Dr. James Giordano: The Brain is the Battlefield of the Future

Dr. James Giordano: The Brain is the Battlefield of the Future

Why is The BRAIN Initiative needed?

Source: Human Connectome Project

With nearly 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections, the human brain remains one of the greatest mysteries in science and one of the greatest challenges in medicine. Neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression, and traumatic brain injury, exact a tremendous toll on individuals, families, and society. Despite the many advances in neuroscience in recent years, the underlying causes of most of neurological and psychiatric conditions remain largely unknown, due to the vast complexity of the human brain. If we are ever to develop effective ways of helping people suffering from these devastating conditions, researchers will first need a more complete arsenal of tools and information for understanding how the brain functions both in health and disease.

Why is now the right time for the BRAIN Initiative? 

A focus of the initial years of the BRAIN Initiative is the development of next-generation tools for exploring how dynamic patterns of neural activity in the brain control thoughts, feelings and movements. 

Source: NIH

In the last decade alone, scientists have made a number of landmark discoveries that now create the opportunity to unlock the mysteries of the brain. We have witnessed the sequencing of the human genome, the development of new tools for mapping neuronal connections, the increasing resolution of imaging technologies, and the explosion of nanoscience. These discoveries have yielded unprecedented opportunities for integration across scientific fields. For instance, by combining advanced genetic and optical techniques, scientists can now use pulses of light in animal models to determine how specific cell activities within the brain affect behavior. What’s more, through the integration of neuroscience and physics, researchers can now use high-resolution imaging technologies to observe how the brain is structurally and functionally connected in living humans.

How Will The BRAIN Initiative work at NIH? 

Dentate gyrus of the mouse hippocampus using Brainbow transgenes. This technology, developed by researchers at Harvard University, uses genetic methods to label individual nerve cells in different colors to identify and track axons and dendrites over long distances. Credit: Joshua Sanes, Ph.D., Harvard University Medical School

Given the ambitious scope of this pioneering endeavor, it was vital that planning be informed by a wide range of expertise and experience. Therefore, NIH established a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) to help shape this new initiative. This working group, co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann (The Rockefeller University) and Dr. William Newsome (Stanford University) sought broad input from the scientific community, patient advocates, and the general public. Their report, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision, released in June 2014 and enthusiastically endorsed by the ACD, articulated the scientific goals of the BRAIN Initiative and developed a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including timetables, milestones, and cost estimates.

Of course, a goal this audacious will require ideas from the best scientists and engineers across many diverse disciplines and sectors. Therefore, NIH is working in close collaboration with other government agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). Private partners are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the BRAIN Initiative.

Five years ago a project such as this would have been considered impossible. Five years from now will be too late. While the goals are profoundly ambitious, the time is right to inspire a new generation of neuroscientists to undertake the most groundbreaking approach ever contemplated to understanding how the brain works, and how disease occurs.

View and/or download a snapshot of the Initiative’s progress.

How will The BRAIN Initiative be supported by NIH? 

Magnetic resonance diffusion tractography is a method for identifying anatomical connections in the living human brain. Source: Washington University/University of Minnesota Human Connectome Project Consortium

Through 2019, NIH has made over 700 awards to hundreds of investigators, totaling ~$1.3 billion. Given the cross-cutting nature of this project, the NIH BRAIN Initiative is managed by the 10 ICs whose missions and current research portfolios align with the goals of the BRAIN Initiative: NCCAM, NEI, NIA, NIAAA, NIBIB, NICHD, NIDA, NIDCD, NIMH, and NINDS.

Coordination among these 10 ICs is happening at multiple levels. Extramural program staff and IC Directors meet regularly to integrate strategic planning, management, and support of BRAIN research across NIH. In addition, the BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group and Neuroethics Working Group have formed to provide input on a variety of issues to the 10 ICs participating in the Initiative. Together, the Institutes are strategically managing the funds Congress has appropriated for BRAIN – including support through the 21st Century Cures Act – to complement the Agency’s ongoing significant investment in neuroscience. Given the broad excitement the BRAIN Initiative generates across NIH, these appropriations have been supplemented on an ad hoc basis with limited additional funds from numerous NIH groups whose missions and current research portfolios complement the goals of the BRAIN Initiative, including: individual NIH Institutes and Centers; the NIH Office of the Director; the Office of Research on Women’s Health; the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research; and the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research.

See the current list of NIH BRAIN Initiative funded awards.

Advisory Committee to the Director, Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN Working Group) 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a BRAIN Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, to develop a rigorous plan for achieving this scientific vision. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the working group, including the scientific background and rationale for the BRAIN Initiative as a whole and for each of seven major goals articulated in the report. In addition, we include specific deliverables, timelines, and cost estimates for these goals as requested by the NIH Director. Read more in the BRAIN 2025 Report.

As the NIH BRAIN Initiative rapidly approached its halfway point, the ACD BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0 was asked to assess BRAIN’s progress and advances within the context of the original BRAIN 2025 report, identify key opportunities to apply new and emerging tools to revolutionize our understanding of brain circuits, and designate valuable areas of continued technology development. Alongside, the BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup was tasked with considering the ethical implications of ongoing research and forecasting what the future of BRAIN advancements might entail, crafting a neuroethics “roadmap” for the Initiative. Read more in the BRAIN 2.0 companion reports (BRAIN Initiative 2.0 report and Neuroethics report).

The BRAIN Initiative in 2015: Updates and Outreach
You are viewing archived BRAIN Initiative content that is no longer current but is available for reference and record keeping purposes.
Town Hall & Reception at the 2015 Society for Neuroscience Meeting in Chicago, IL.
When: Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 6:30-9:00 pm
Where: McCormick Place Convention Center Room S103
Additional Event Information:
This interactive panel discussion/Q&A session will feature updates on activities and opportunities offered by the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Representatives from federal agencies, private research foundations and universities will be present. A reception with speakers will immediately follow. For details on registration, speaker names, and event contact information, we will continue to update this website regularly.
Kristen Bowsher, Ph.D. (FDA)
Miyoung Chun, Ph.D. (The Kavli Foundation)
Catherine Cotell, Ph.D. (IARPA)
Greg Farber, Ph.D. (NIMH)
Walter Koroshetz, M.D. (NINDS)
Allan Jones, Ph.D. (Allen Institute for Brain Science)
Jim Olds, Ph.D. (NSF)
Alyssa Picchini-Schaffer, Ph.D. (Simons Foundation)
Justin Sanchez, Ph.D. (DARPA)
Nelson Spruston, Ph.D. (HHMI/Janelia Research Campus)
Program Agenda:
6:30-6:40pm – The BRAIN Initiative: Taking the Next Steps
Walter Koroshetz, M.D., Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) on behalf of the NIH BRAIN IC Directors Committee
Panel Discussions with Federal Agencies and Private Foundations
Updates on BRAIN Initiative Activities and Funding Opportunities
6:40-7:10pm – Panel 1: Federal Agencies
Greg Farber, Ph.D., Director, Office of Technology Development and Coordination, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
James Olds, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Directorate for Biological Sciences, National Science Foundation (NSF)
Justin Sanchez, Ph.D., Program Manager, Biological Technologies Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Catherine Cotell, Ph.D., Program Manager, Director, Office of Incisive Analysis, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA)
Kristen Bowsher, Ph.D., Division of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
7:10-7:25pm – Question and Answer Session
7:25-7:45pm – Panel 2: Private Foundations
Allan Jones, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science
Miyoung Chun, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Science Programs, The Kavli Foundation
Alyssa Picchini-Schaffer, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and Fellow, Senior Scientist, Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Global Brain
Nelson Spruston, Ph.D., Scientific Program Director, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Research Campus
7:25-7:45pm – Reception sponsored by the Kavli Foundation
Universities & Private Groups Attending (PDF – 27.1KB)
Latest Updates from the BRAIN Blogrss feed icon
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Advancing Scientific and Workforce Diversity in the BRAIN Initiative – Feedback Reminder
AUGUST 26, 2020
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Upcoming Virtual Meetings for the NIH BRAIN Initiative Neuroethics Working Group and Multi-Council Working Group
AUGUST 18, 2020
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BRAIN Publication Roundup – August 2020
AUGUST 12, 2020
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Argonne National Laboratory



Argonne maintains a wide-ranging science and technology portfolio that seeks to address complex challenges in interdisciplinary and innovative ways. Below is a list of all articles, highlights, profiles, projects, and organizations related specifically to neuroscience.


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Publication DateTitle


Nanodevices for the brain could thwart formation of Alzheimer’s plaques
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting one in 10 people over the age of 65. Scientists are engineering nanodevices to disrupt processes in the brain that lead to the disease.

Narayanan Kasthuri

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A neuroscientist and a computational scientist walk into a synchrotron facility to study a mouse brain… Sounds like a great set-up for a comedy bit, but there is no punchline.

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Chemical link for hearing and balance found that could aid deafness and vertigo treatments
Researchers have mapped the precise 3-D atomic structure of a thin protein filament critical for cells in the inner ear and calculated the force necessary to pull it apart.

Brain Iron as an Early Predictor of Alzheimer’s Disease

Blood vessel simulation probes secrets of brain

Neural modeling helps expose epilepsy’s triggers 
 A brain scan of a person experiencing an epileptic seizure looks like the Great Plains during an early evening in midsummer. Fierce electrical storms pop up seemingly at random, proliferate over large areas and subside almost as quickly as they arose.

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Beckman researchers awarded NIH BRAIN Initiative grant

Beckman researchers awarded NIH BRAIN Initiative grant

Researchers at the Beckman Institute have received more than $2 million dollars over three years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative in order to develop an analytical platform that can lead to new insights in neuroscience and create diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities in treating neurological diseases.

By Beckman Institute

Published on Oct. 1, 2015

Jonathan Sweedler, professor of chemistry, Martha Gillette, professor of cell and developmental biology, and Rohit Bhargava, professor of bioengineering, head up the project titled “BRAIN Initiative: Integrated Multimodal Analysis of Cell- and Circuit-Specific Activity using Mass Spectrometry Profiling and Correlated Raman Imaging.” The cross-disciplinary project allows researchers new methods to examine molecular and chemical structures of the brain with innovative imaging techniques: Sweedler and Gillette work in Beckman’s NeuroTech Group, while Bhargava is from the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

“A major goal of the BRAIN initiative is to develop tools to characterize the brain at the cell and even subcellular level,” said Sweedler. “Our efforts will develop a novel analytical platform that integrates two of the most powerful chemical characterization approaches, mass spectrometry and Raman scattering microscopy, and adapts them to work with select individual cells of the brain. Our proposed platform directly addresses an unmet need for the BRAIN initiative, will lead to new neuroscience insights, and help create novel diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities.  

“The chemicals found in and released from specific brain cells impact how systems of neurons interact, and their misregulation can cause neurological disease. Thus it may be surprising that for many of the cells in the brain, inventories of the important molecular players are not available, which is one key area our efforts address,” Sweedler said.

The (NIH) Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, 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.

Pictured: Stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) image(s) of ‘viable’ rat DG, ~150um thick. Granule cell neurons are visible in pink (nuclei) with purple surrounds (cytoplasm). The image demonstrates that Raman imaging can be readily performed on unfixed tissue in perfusion, and the thickness of this tissue can approach hundreds of microns. 



• Jonathan V. Sweedler

Martha L. Gillette

Rohit Bhargava

Published by lslolo

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