Today at Berkeley Lab

Director Alivisatos Plays Key Role in White House BRAIN Conference

WH Brain Conference 1

The White House hosted a conference on Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) yesterday as a follow up to the President’s 2013 announcement of the BRAIN initiative. Brought together to talk about how they could play a role in making this collaborative endeavor a success, conference attendees included representatives from national labs, academic and private research organizations, federal agencies (including DARPA, NSF, NIH, FDA, and IARPA), foundations and philanthropies, investors, and industry. The BRAIN Initiative has been hailed as a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

Director Paul Alivisatos moderated two of the conference’s three panels, focusing on the critical technologies and tools that the community will need to develop in order to meet the goals of the BRAIN Initiative. Other speakers included John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), and Tom Kalil, who is Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council. Notably, Deputy Director Kalil announced $300 million in commitments to spark the creation of tools researchers need to treat brain disease.

Several panelists spoke about the need to apply technological advances from fields as diverse as telecommunications, computation and robotics to aid neuroscience researchers – and other researchers working on the BRAIN Initiative – to study and map the brain, as well as to develop new diagnostic tools and treatments. Others made the case for how new tools and technologies can impact neuroscience research on the frontlines, especially with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. All agreed that the BRAIN Initiative has the potential to do for neuroscience what the Human Genome Project did for genomics, and that it will take just this kind of collaborative team science approach to achieve it. Dr. Alivisatos noted that, while some of this has already begun, especially in molecular science and in the science of neurons, we need to find ways to add scale – and speed – to the effort.

Berkeley Lab is currently participating in several efforts in support of the BRAIN Initiative, including a tri-institute partnership with UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco known as BRAINseed, and a statewide research grants program called Cal-BRAIN, led by UC San Diego. Berkeley Lab will serve as the northern hub for the program.

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