NSF awards $10.8 million in early concept grants for brain research
36 new awards as part of NSF’s support for The BRAIN Initiative and potentially transformative insights into understanding the brain
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 36 Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) to enable new technologies to better understand how complex behaviors emerge from the activity of brain circuits.
These awards will contribute to NSF's growing portfolio of investments in support of President Obama's BRAIN Initiative, a multi-agency research effort that seeks to accelerate the development of new neurotechnologies that promise to help researchers answer fundamental questions about how the brain works.
Each NSF EAGER award is for $300,000 over a two-year period. The researchers receiving the awards, many first-time NSF grantees, will develop a range of conceptual and physical tools, from real-time whole brain imaging, to new theories of neural networks, to next-generation optogenetics.
Most of the awarded projects involve interdisciplinary teams of investigators; these 36 awards will support 76 researchers with expertise that spans nearly all scientific and engineering fields of study represented at NSF. Three of the projects involve international collaborations.
"Progress towards the goals of The BRAIN Initiative and our comprehension of the brain and behavior requires that scientists and engineers from diverse disciplines work together," said NSF Director France Córdova. "NSF is proud to invest in collaborative, fundamental projects that incubate innovative ideas in this exciting area of inquiry."
Catching the brain in actionIn March, NSF asked researchers to submit ideas for early-stage, potentially ground-breaking new approaches to reveal how neuronal processes in the brain lead to complex behaviors in any organism. NSF reviewed the summaries and invited full proposals from applicants whose ideas best aligned with the outlined research topics. Five of NSF's scientific directorates were involved in funding the final selections.
EAGER awards, a funding mechanism within NSF's merit review system, are intended for short-term, proof-of-concept projects with high-payoff prospects.
"These new awards are a key element in NSF's overall, strategic efforts to support investigations into how the brain functions, in action and in context," said John Wingfield, NSF's assistant director for the Biological Sciences Directorate, which led the call for proposals.
"The research community is well-poised to tackle the challenges associated with understanding neural circuitry," Wingfield said. "With NSF's support, we expect these investments to lead to significant steps toward inventive new tools and technologies aimed at catching the brain in action."
These EAGER awards cap off numerous NSF-supported, BRAIN-related activities in fiscal year 2014. These activities include a series of workshops sponsored by multiple scientific directorates, the new MIT-based Science and Technology Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, and ongoing awards from core programs across the foundation.
Visit NSF.gov/brain for more information about NSF's support for The BRAIN Initiative.
The full list of primary investigators who will receive EAGER awards follows.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.
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