Could brain research be the United States’ real key to competitive advantage in the global economy? This week, the White House introduced the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovation Neurotechnologies) – a program that, with the financial support and investment from groups both within and outside the government, strives to understand the brain on an unimagined level. As the President said:
“As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away; we can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.” President Obama’s remarks when introducing this initiative.
With the proper investment and support of public, private, and educational sectors, it will be possible to inspire a new generation of researchers to study our brains and position the United States to become the leading experts in the brain. This expertise could spur not just academic research and interventions for brain diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS but a whole range of life enhancing products and services that could change the quality of life for the world. Think about it. Studying the brain is the first piece of a larger game. This game will allow us to do what we love: compete, be recognized, and be motivated to live better and be happier.
The White House laid out 4 very broad reaching points about the BRAIN Initiative but, as Federal budget battles and gridlock will no doubt continue, here is the one thing that just might make this one work:
Public-private partnerships: Federal research agencies will partner with companies, foundations, and private research institutions that are also investing in relevant neuroscience research, such as the Allen Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. (From FAQs on the BRAIN Initiative at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/02/fact-sheet-brain-initiative)
If we find a way to have every dollar the government invests in this program matched by not just the foundations and institutions listed but by corporations and individuals — “matching funds” style — arguments against funding get tougher. If we find a way to take this research out of the laboratories and make the academic, practical and product focused, there is a recipe in this idea for very rich and flavorful success.
Let’s make the US the lead authority in the brain and behavior and unlock the mystery!