In the same way that the Human Genome Project has helped improve our understanding of human genetics, the White House is hoping that a new project could help us unlock the mysteries of the human brain.
According to a report from the New York Times, the Obama administration is set to unveil a major scientific project inside next month's budget proposal. Called the Brain Activity Map project, the proposed venture would seek to build a vast and comprehensive map of the human brain, to better understand its processess.
Apparently, the project would fall under the guidance of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and could cost billions. Of course, there are no details yet about how the financing would be distributed.
The plans, which may be announced in March, involve multiple federal agencies, private companies, and a host of neuroscientists.
The project could kick off with the help of some high-profile tech companies. The NYT includes this little tidbit in the report:
A meeting held on Jan. 17 at the California Institute of Technology was attended by the three government agencies, as well as neuroscientists, nanoscientists and representatives from Google, Microsoft and Qualcomm. According to a summary of the meeting, it was held to determine whether computing facilities existed to capture and analyze the vast amounts of data that would come from the project. The scientists and technologists concluded that they did.
Of course, a project like this has implications for any number of fields including artificial intelligence, medicine (brain diseases), and more. It also has the ability to spur job growth in the scientific sector.
Remember this part of President Obama's State of the Union speech?
"Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy...every dollar. Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.”
Maybe an early tip to the upcoming Brain Activity Map? Projects like this can take a while to get going after they're announced and worked into the budget. Plus, it's being referred to as a "decade-long" project. So let's get on with it. Yeah, Science.