Obama Unveils Vast Brain-Mapping Project

10-year initiative, with $100 million funding in 2014, designed to lead to breakthroughs for diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

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Other experts had welcomed news of the project after Obama's remarks in February.

"This initiative has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of neural circuits, providing the fundamental knowledge that is critical for developing treatments for a host of neurological and psychiatric disorders," said Dr. David Fitzpatrick, scientific director and chief executive officer of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, in Jupiter, Fla.

Dr. Ashesh Mehta, head of the Laboratory of Multimodal Brain Mapping at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., said the advent of new brain-mapping technologies has brought "an explosion of information in recent years, and the need to coordinate and synthesize this information from the single neuron to the whole brain is upon us now.

"This [the brain project] would not only pave the path toward treating neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, depression and paralysis," Mehta added, "but it will also help us develop better technology."

Scientists hope the effort will have the same wide-reaching effect on brain research and knowledge that the Human Genome Project had on genetics. When it was completed in 2003, the 13-year Human Genome Project had mapped all of the genes in human DNA and cost $3.8 billion.

In his State of the Union remarks, Obama said, "Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every dollar."

The White House added a fresh perspective to that Tuesday morning.

"As a result of that daunting but focused endeavor, the cost of sequencing a single human genome has declined from $100 million to $7,000, opening the door to personalized medicine," the statement said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about brain basics.

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