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News Release 13-059

National Science Foundation Participates in White House Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative

NSF-supported research in this area spans biology, mathematics, physical sciences, engineering, computer science, and social and behavioral sciences

human brain

NSF will contribute $20 million to a White House initiative to better understand the brain.

April 2, 2013

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

President Obama today announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) will participate in a White House initiative called Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN), which is designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett took part in the announcement at the White House, which also included the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as private sector representatives.

"NSF is ideally positioned to support the BRAIN Initiative because of the broad scope of science and engineering research funding we provide to the nation," Marrett said. "NSF's neuroscience and cognitive science research portfolio is expansive, and this initiative enhances efforts that are already underway to explore neurological connections from the cellular to human behavioral levels."

NSF intends to support approximately $20 million in research that will advance this $100 million initiative. The Foundation's contributions will include research into the development of molecular-scale probes that can sense and record the activity of neural networks; advances in "Big Data" that are necessary to analyze the huge amounts of information that will be generated; and increased understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions and memories are represented in the brain.

Some of NSF's current investments in neuroscience research include:

  • Studies employing species comparative approaches on how the nervous system develops and coordinates complex functions are generating the computational models of neuronal networks that are essential for understanding the emergent properties of the nervous system and how network plasticity influences behavior.
  • Research on the chemical and physical principles governing the activity of neural systems is leading to mechanistic and predictive models of cellular behavior and to new approaches for understanding system-wide effects of external stimuli such as pharmacological agents and anesthetics, genetic modifiers and the environment.
  • Principles underlying microelectronics, optics, optobiology and nanosystems provide key platforms for addressing the temporal and spatial characteristics of functional brain mapping.
  • Converging research in machine learning, big data, computational neuroscience, human-centered computing and informatics is essential for mapping and understanding brain activity on a large scale.
  • Frameworks that link brain activity patterns to a diverse range of cognitive and behavioral functions carried out in specific ecological, evolutionary, developmental and social contexts are being developed. At the same time social science theory, methods, and approaches are enabling patterns of brain activity be linked to individual behaviors making this knowledge relevant to the human experience.

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Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, NSF, (703) 292-7750, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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