Understanding the brain: The National Science Foundation and the BRAIN Initiative
Visit www.NSF.gov/brain for more information.
On April 2, 2013, the White House announced an initiative called Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN), which includes the participation of the National Science Foundation (NSF). You may wonder what this means.
Part of what it means is an opportunity to continue a national conversation about an important topic: the brain. To help with the dialogue, here are short answers to some basic questions.
What is the BRAIN Initiative?
The BRAIN Initiative is an effort by federal agencies and private partners to support and coordinate research to understand how the human brain works.
Why do we need to understand the brain?
Understanding the brain means knowing the fundamental principles underlying brain structure and function. The research required to do so will accelerate scientific discovery and innovation, promote advances in technology and bolster U.S. economic competitiveness.
New neuroscience discoveries will enable us to foster brain health; engineer solutions that enhance, replace or compensate for lost function; improve the effectiveness of formal and informal educational approaches; promote learning across the lifespan and build brain-inspired smarter technologies for improved quality of life.
What is NSF's role in brain research?
NSF invests in high-risk, high-reward exploratory and transformational scientific and engineering research with emphasis on integration across scales and disciplines.
While our knowledge of brain anatomy and how brain cells use chemical and electrical signals to communicate with one another has grown considerably, we are only beginning to understand how those signals interact to give rise to thoughts, processes and behaviors.
Now is the time for a comprehensive approach that combines new discoveries from a variety of fields, including brain anatomy, imaging and function as well as cyberinfrastructure. Understanding the brain has been identified as one of five longstanding and fundamental questions, or "grand challenges," for future research.
What do we need to do this?
How will the BRAIN Initiative affect programs at NSF?
NSF invests tens of millions of dollars in neuroscience and cognitive science research across many disciplines. NSF will continue to make major investments in fundamental science across disciplines and in innovative technologies to accelerate discovery that will revolutionize our understanding of the brain.
When can the scientific community expect to learn more about NSF's research goals for the BRAIN Initiative?
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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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