US President Barack Obama announced Tuesday funding worth US$100 million for cutting-edge research of the human brain aimed at finding ways to treat, cure and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and epilepsy.
"As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can studies particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears," Obama said.
The project, known as the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, aims to speed up the development of new technology to produce pictures of the brain to show how cells and neural circuits interact, the White House said. The information learned from the new technology would increase knowledge of how the brain works and how brain function and behaviour are linked.
Obama announced the proposal at the White House alongside Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who was instrumental in the mapping of the human genome. Obama said the brain research had the potential to be just as revolutionary to medicine as that effort had been.
"There's this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked, and the BRAIN Initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action and better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember," Obama said.
The White House said it will devote 100 million dollars in its 2014 budget proposal to the effort at the NIH, Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation. The government will also partner with private research groups that have committed to spending hundreds of millions of additional dollars.