Obama’s $100M BRAIN Initiative aims to cure Alzheimer’s, create cyborgs

BRAIN Initiative cyborgs

When we start gallivanting around the globe in our Iron Man-like cyborg bodies, we may have President Obama to thank for making it all possible.

At a White House event Tuesday morning, Obama laid out the first details of a $100 million project that aims to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain while furthering American innovation and job growth.

Known as the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the program stands to help researchers unlock cures for a variety of brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s, PTSD, epilepsy, autism, and traumatic brain injury. It could also lead to the kind of integration of man and machine so far only realized in the pages of science fiction.

“Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s or struggle in the grip of epilepsy,” said Obama. “Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. Imagine if someone with a prosthetic limb can now play the piano or throw a baseball as well as anybody else, because the wiring from the brain to that prosthetic is direct and triggered by what’s already happening in the patient’s mind.”

Obama characterized the BRAIN Initiative as “the next great American project,” on par with efforts to create “computer chips and GPS technology, the Internet,” all of which “grew out of government investments in basic research.” Even the founders of Google “got their early support from the National Science Foundation,” said Obama. It is these kinds of investments that will strengthen the U.S. economy for generations to come, he said. And if we don’t make them, some other country will.

“We can’t afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead. We have to seize them,” said Obama. “I don’t want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here, in the United States of America.”

Obama says he plans to include funding for the BRAIN Initiative in his 2014 fiscal budget, which he will release next week. Money for the program will come from the a variety of federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, DARPA, and the National Science Foundation.

Congress must approve Obama’s budget for the BRAIN Initiative to become a reality.

See more about the BRAIN Initiative in the White House-created infographic below:


 Image via malinx/Shutterstock