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The BRAIN Initiative

How Will The BRAIN Initiative Work At NIH?

Image of the dentate gyrus of the mouse hippocampus using Brainbow transgenes. This technology, developed by researchers at Harvard University, uses genetic methods to label individual nerve cells in different colors to identify and track axons and dendrites over long distances. Credit: Joshua Sanes, Ph.D., Harvard University Medical School External Web Site Policy

Given the ambitious scope of this pioneering endeavor, it was vital that planning be informed by a wide range of expertise and experience. Therefore, NIH established a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) to help shape this new initiative. This working group, co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann (The Rockefeller University) and Dr. William Newsome (Stanford University) sought broad input from the scientific community, patient advocates, and the general public. Their report, released in June 2014 and enthusiastically endorsed by the ACD, articulated the scientific goals of the BRAIN Initiative and developed a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including timetables, milestones, and cost estimates.

Of course, a goal this audacious will require ideas from the best scientists and engineers across many diverse disciplines and sectors. Therefore, NIH is working in close collaboration with other government agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Private partners are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the BRAIN Initiative.

Five years ago a project such as this would have been considered impossible. Five years from now will be too late. While the goals are profoundly ambitious, the time is right to inspire a new generation of neuroscientists to undertake the most groundbreaking approach ever contemplated to understanding how the brain works, and how disease occurs.

How will the BRAIN Initiative be supported by NIH?

In total, NIH intends to allocate $40 million in FY 2014. Given the cross-cutting nature of this project, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research — an effort spanning 15 NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) — will be a leading NIH contributor in FY 2014. The NIH BRAIN initiative will be managed by the 10 ICs whose missions and current research portfolios complement the goals of the BRAIN Initiative: NCCAM, NEI, NIA, NIAAA, NIBIB, NICHD, NIDA, NIDCD, NIMH, and NINDS. These 10 ICs will be directly contributing funds to a common pool for the support of BRAIN research.

Coordination among these 10 ICs will happen at multiple levels. The extramural program staff and IC Directors will meet regularly to integrate strategic planning, management, and support of BRAIN research across NIH. In addition, there will be a multi-council working group.

BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group

The Multi-Council Working Group will ensure a coordinated and focused effort across NIH. The working group (PDF - 21KB) includes a member from the Advisory Council of each of the 10 Institutes and Centers that contribute to the NIH BRAIN Initiative, with additional at-large members appointed to supplement the working group’s expertise. In addition, the working group will include ex officio members from other federal agencies such as DARPA and NSF that are involved in the BRAIN initiative.

The Multi-Council Working Group will provide ongoing oversight of the long-term scientific vision of the BRAIN initiative, as endorsed by the ACD, in the context of the evolving neuroscience landscape. It will also serve as a forum for initial “concept clearance”, the review of ideas for new initiatives before they become funding announcements. In addition, the working group will ensure that each of the BRAIN IC Advisory Councils is informed about BRAIN initiatives, awards and progress – a critical point as the individual IC Advisory Councils will perform the formal second level of review of the BRAIN initiative applications. Finally, the working group will regularly offer an assessment of the progress of current projects and programs supported by the BRAIN Initiative.


The first meeting of the Multi-Council Working Group is scheduled for Monday, August 25, 2014 on the NIH Campus. The meeting will be videocast live, and the videocast can be accessed at Please note that due to severely limited seating, it is not possible for the public to attend this meeting in person, but we will ensure that future meetings will be held at a larger venue.

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute use high-speed light-sheet microscopy to image almost all neurons in the intact larval zebrafish brain at single-cell resolution, capturing activity in the entire brain once every 1.3 s. Source: Nature External Web Site Policy , March 18, 2013




This page last reviewed on August 27, 2014