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On July 14 President Obama announced the

Brain Initiative;

Today at the White House, President Obama unveiled the “BRAIN” Initiative—a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
What is it all about?

BRAIN Initiative Challenges Researchers to Unlock Mysteries of Human Mind

This is not a simple subject.

Bottom line, Obama offers a budget of anywhere from $110 million (initial per White House website) to about $300 million/year according to Wikipedia to $Billions according the the neuroscientists.

This big idea started with the Kavli Foundation, down the street in Oxnard, CA.  Not everybody agrees which shows useful checks and balances.

But to get the whole idea and make up your mind (pun intended) the best you can do is to watch this incredibly enlightening Charlie Rose video;

Charlie Rose photo CharlieRose_zps15b58f34.jpg

There is a lot in this 1 hour video about testing on animals, there are divergent opinions on milestones, it's "parallel" to the European computer brain project and different perspectives.

But is you recommend this diary we may be able to start the discussion. It hasn't been diaried before.

Love to hear your opinion.

Obama is leading us through uncharted waters. JFK had it simpler with the landing on the Moon, everybody knew where the moon was. The structure and functioning of the brain given the complexity of human consciousness is a bit more difficult.  But IMO as this is basic science of the highest level and it has historically paid off big time.  The Apollo Program was closer to $20 billion in today's money.

So I published this diary originaly on Sunday at 1AM and it fell through.  Kossacks with an affinity to science were probably still partying. I am republishing it at xxdr zombiexx's suggestion.  Never done this before.

Poll

Obama's Brain Initiative

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| 58 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's all my fault, I swear... (7+ / 0-)
  •  Glad you republished... (15+ / 0-)

    there are good things going on and focusing on them might be a well needed break for some.

    "If Jesus had a gun he'd still be alive today." Homer Simpson, 2013

    by quiet in NC on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 08:14:55 AM PDT

  •  It is really important (and I say (14+ / 0-)

    that not ONLY because my daughter will be majoring in Neuro-science).  1) we need to conduct basic research as it delivers all sorts of unanticipated rewards, many of which are commercially viable, but which would not be so were it not for the basic research conducted by the government (we saw that with the Human Genome project).
    2) There is an important fiscal imperative.  As we know more about the human brain, we should be able to develop better (and more cost-effective) treatments (and, perhaps, even a cure) for Alzheimer's, a disease that could have disasterous fiscal effects on the Baby Boom generation and on our society as a whole, given the size of the potential problem.  (Not to diminish the very real personal effects that Alzheimer's has on families, but simply to emphasize how those effects will be magnified and spread throughout the social safety net)

    With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 08:26:12 AM PDT

  •  I see the criticism linked to is (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, jakedog42, Lujane, cotterperson

    from someone who makes money charging big business who plans to use our brains against us.

    If propaganda, programming, etc. are used against us, maybe the science needs to be public, so we don't become mislead for money, fed foods and sold other products that are bad for us because the companies own the science to addict us, manipulate us and keep it all secret because they have marked it as trade secrets.

    Knowing how brains work might help us from falling prey to a propaganda machine that make Goebbels look like an amatuer.

    We might also do some good things for mental health and debilitating neurological diseases on the side.

  •  Just think of the potential benefits (9+ / 0-)

    In addition to disease:
    National Security - brain injuries account for the most injuries in combat
    Education and Learning Disabilities - just think if we had a clear understanding how our brains process (or don't process) information.

    One that I'm excited about - more powerful super computers modelled on the human brain.

  •  A big nothing (12+ / 0-)

    Funding for biomedical science is at the lowest levels ever.     A whole generation of young scientists may not make it because of that.  Many closing labs and moving to other careers.

    The brain initiative is smoke and mirrors for Obama to say he did something in science.   If he really wants to promote science he should fight hard for an increase on the NIH budget.   He has neglected things there where it matters and the psychotic tea party republicans have their way with cuts in funding (along with anything else federal).

    I know some will not believe this statement.   So, check it out.  Talk to scientists who understand what is really happening these days.   Funding is at the lowest level ever.

    •  Sadly so true. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, Blue Wind, charliehall2

      Of course, it would be a phenomenal enterprise, but the funding is another matter which degrades it to another fantastic idea.

    •  Primary responsibility for the budget (6+ / 0-)

      does not rest with the executive branch. Whatever differences many of us have or should have with our President on matters where the executive power is paramount, we should recognize that although a budget may be submitted by the President, it is necessary to have said budget approved by both houses of Congress for it to be enacted. With the Senate filibuster rules and the Republican lock on the House, saying that we don't spend enough on science (and many other things) is true, but it is hard to see how we could have gotten anything better from Presidential action. The bully pulpit doesn't go very far when over half of Congress is going out of its way to show how much they oppose anything whatsoever coming forth from said pulpit.

      My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
      --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

      by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:23:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Only partially agree (yes/no) (7+ / 0-)

      It is true that funding for biomedical research has been cut significantly by the far right and it has significant effects on the the careers of both junior and more senior scientists. The president can put forth a budget but in the end it has to be approved by Congress.

      The paylines at NIH are certainly much lower but with regards to trainees, funding for career development awards such as NRSA and K mechanisms are still being fully funded. Similarly, for young and new investigators more leeway is given for funding by employing less stringent paylines.

      The cuts are hitting existing and newly funded R01's (large grants for mid-level and senior investigators). All R01s are taking a 10-20% budget cut annually. As such, most of us are simply increasing are initial budgets to accommodate those anticipated cuts.

      Most investigators have several grants under review at anyone time (I currently have two under review and a third in the pipellne--each focused on various areas of clinical neuroscience). If none of your grants are successful, you cannot entirely blame funding cuts. At some point an investigator has to consider whether their work is of importance to the field because no Senator or Representative serves on study sections.

      Where I disagree with your assessment is that the BRAIN project is smoke and mirrors. As Tom Insel (head of NIMH), Eric Kandel and Story Landis noted, the president was prescient in putting the initiative forward at this time primarily because we now have the methodology to actually answer the important questions put forth.

      It's the Central Limit Theorem, Stupid!

      by smartdemmg on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:33:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Accidentally doing brain research and support this (9+ / 0-)

      I have conducted NIH-funded biomedical research for the past 30 years or so, and have also trained new generations of scientists at several universities. That is the most important way that scientific breakthroughs are achieved- federal funding and the environment at research universities. Most of this time I have worked on a single gene, initially just because of the beauty of the basic science, but it has lead me from reproductive to cancer research. Our initially esoteric studies produced new understanding in colon and breast cancer, but recently, a really big breakthrough in Type I diabetes (done by another research group but based upon our groundwork). Other investigators have found that the gene is implicated in female anxiety, depression, suicide, and multiple sclerosis. We have produced mouse models that confirm anxiety and behavioral disorders in mice lacking the gene and will allow detailed studies of the biochemical and neurological changes behind the above conditions. We are now collaborating with a European group that has found the gene is mutated and produces mental retardation. Before starting this new collaboration, I didn't know that 60-80% of non-syndromic mental retardation is of unknown causes and is not inherited, i.e., it arises through new mutations in the afflicted individual. The way this was determined was by whole-genome/exome DNA sequencing of the affected children and comparison to the DNA sequences of the parents genome, looking for the single nucleotide change producing the disease! As the White House announcement points out, who could have predicted that sequencing of the first genome at $100 million could lead to this type of analysis for about $7000 per individual now?

      In the U.S. population, lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders is 28.8% and major depressive disorder (MDD) accounts for 16.6% of this prevalence. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime, however the underlying causes remain poorly understood. I am a molecular biologist and biochemist, and I never really wanted to do neuroscience research, but now find myself quite involved in behavior studies and brain function that could impact a vast proportion of the population. However, this is likely to end soon. As exciting as the above research sounds, funding levels for biomedical science is going down in the U.S. Success levels for NIH grants as some institutes is below 5%.  That means the few scientists left that have been able to maintain research programs for the past decade now have a 95% chance of losing those programs. Great science is going unfunded, and if you can't hire a graduate student and if you can't feed your mice (that in itself is a million dollar investment over the past 13 years), then decades of research come to an end. As Blue Wind comments above, this announcement appears as smoke and mirrors by the Obama administration- a true push for an increased NIH budget would be the best approach. But we also have a congress whose only goal seems to be gutting non-military federal budgets. Do you think Obama could have really got an increased NIH budget in the current legislative environment? As a priority, how often does news media or conversation around the family table involve funding for science? It isn't until someone close to them gets sick that people ask- "why is this happening and why isn't there a cure"? As "It’s the Supreme Court Stupid" also comments above, there is a fiscal imperative to conduct neuroscience research, because of neurological disorders that are going to afflict boomers, and because it would stimulate the economy in a positive direction. I am willing to support anything that raises the importance and discussion of scientific research funding.

  •  This work is more or less being done anyway (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave

    (or it would be if the NIH weren't so horribly underfunded).

    In any event, a cynic might say this is a natural extension of the NSA's surveillance efforts - in that once fMRI is better, one could just walk through a scanner (maybe like those anti-theft devices at a department store's entrance) and whoever it is running the scanning device would know what you are thinking.

    Eventually they'll perfect the technology and just be able to install the devices by the roadside to capture your thoughts as you drive by . . . like those ubiquitous police license plate readers or radiation detectors.

    •  ANY scientific progress can be perverted (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, smartdemmg, charliehall2

      That's not a valid argument for opposing research in a field with so much potential to help people.

      Incidentally, your last paragraph was CT, usually donut-worthy, but so laughable I can't even take it seriously as CT. At least not yet. Do you have more in that vein?

      My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
      --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

      by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:43:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You can laugh, but when I was a kid (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave

        only God and Santa Claus had the NSA's current surveillance capabilities.

        So if you think that roadside scanning thing can't or won't happen, you are clearly not paranoid enough.  And believe me, it is not possible to be too paranoid in this day and age.

        •  And when I was a kid (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shockwave, mmacdDE, highacidity

          there was no internet; there were no personal computers; microwave ovens were still new, expensive, and rare; telephones were big, black, and plugged into the wall; color TVs were not universal (my family didn't have one until the late 70's); all automobiles burned large amounts of leaded gasoline; smallpox was not yet eradicated; and people worried about a coming ice age.

          Knowledge is dangerous, no question. So is ignorance.

          My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
          --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

          by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:56:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  No. This is a misunderstanding of the technology. (5+ / 0-)

      This project has absolutely no relationship to NSA surveillance efforts. Without explaining the underlying physics and neurobiology of fMRI, it is not plausible to put in place a useful scanner in a public setting, nor have it perform a clandestine analysis of your thoughts.

      Second, while some of this work is ongoing, creating initiatives that pull together the resources and people to do this work in creative group is a good thing.

      It's the Central Limit Theorem, Stupid!

      by smartdemmg on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:44:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well of course not, not right now (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave
        it is not plausible to put in place a useful scanner in a public setting, nor have it perform a clandestine analysis of your thoughts.
        but really, what do you think the end game is?
        •  The end game is irrelevant (3+ / 0-)

          if the technology isn't possible.

          Again without walking through the details,

          1. You never scan someone who is unaware they will be scanned because the technology acts as a giant magnet. If the individual has metal anywhere in or on their body, it will heat the metal and tear it from their body. That includes important items such as brain implants that could kill them.

          2. Brain systems and redundant and non-specific, so that even when we are able to localize signal or examine circuits, it lacks the specificity for reading someone's complex thoughts.

          Each of these issues make your comment implausible at best and CT as another commenter noted.

          It's the Central Limit Theorem, Stupid!

          by smartdemmg on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 10:14:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  NSA crap aside, yeah, it is being done. But (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, charliehall2

      having a specific initiative can help focus the efforts more. I would still prefer if they simply funded NIH better.

    •  I assume that is snark (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave
      •  OK sure, but what clued you in? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave

        probably my allegation that the NIH - which spends something like 4 to 5 months worth of Afghanistan war funding each year - is "horribly underfunded"!

        •  Depends on how you're counting (0+ / 0-)

          NIH funding for 2013 was $29.15 billion, about $2.43 billion per month. Funding for 2014 will not be substantially more (best case, about $31 billion).

          In the 141.5 months since the Afghan war started, we have spent something north of $644 billion, or an average of about $4.5 billion per month taken across the entire length of the war (because the war was so halfhearted pursued after the Iraq distraction, that average is considerably lower than the current monthly cost, I believe). However, any monthly figure for war costs is misleading. First, it will not count the large predictable future costs currently being incurred, which extend for decades after the war's official end. We will be paying for medical costs and veteran's services into the foreseeable future. Second, it does not count the opportunity cost, the cost to society of putting so many resources into a project that will not give ROI remotely comparable to other possible investments. NIH funding does not incur similar future costs and the potential gains are much greater.

          I don't believe you will find a majority of the people on this site who would agree that the NIH should get less in funding solely because it is expensive. This is a site dedicated to the promotion of the Democratic Party, and Democrats have believed for decades that a big country has big needs that cannot adequately be addressed with small government.

          My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
          --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

          by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:34:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why minimize current expenditure? (0+ / 0-)
            n the 141.5 months since the Afghan war started, we have spent something north of $644 billion, or an average of about $4.5 billion per month taken across the entire length of the war
            which are much higher than the time averaged average over the past 12 years or so?

            what is your agenda, exactly??

            •  I'm not minimizing (0+ / 0-)

              I don't KNOW current expenditures, even roughly. I can easily find total costs. Current costs are harder. I found last year's budget for the war here. With the drawdown, I don't know how closely that tracks the current year's budget. However, given that the number I used (average over time) was less than the (unstated but implied) number you claimed was the current average and is therefore actually more congenial to your argument that the NIH is overfunded (an argument I reject), you are going to have to radically switch perspectives if you wish to go after me on methodology.

              My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
              --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

              by leftist vegetarian patriot on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:45:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  According to this PDF (0+ / 0-)

            linked here

            the "on the books" figures are

            FY2012: $105.5 billion
            FY2013: $85.6 billion

            which works out to about twice what you are claiming.

  •  Well, it's half a loaf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave

    It's not that much money, but otoh there is little real certainty of the usefulness of what it yields.  Yet it's probably sensible- the basic technical work has to get done, psychiatric disorders are the crucial health problem of the era.  This project probably won't get us from one to the other, but it might narrow the gap or someone might get lucky and the insight missing to date is discerned.  But you can't get lucky without trying some modest and targeted real stab at the problem, which is what this thing looks like.

    The contrast is to the Genome Project, which seemed able to promise a lot of concrete research usefulness and biomedical dividends quickly.  These got horribly oversold by not very ethical PIs and got a lot of money dumped into it.  More than a decade later there isn't single major disease that is in any serious way solved as a result.  American biology and medical research is paying the price for that now.

  •  Put DARPA on it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, Ice Blue, Mr Robert

    we'll have mind control rays in a decade.

    Obama: self-described Republican; backed up by right-wing policies

    by The Dead Man on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:39:53 AM PDT

  •  Not enough money. (4+ / 0-)

    Genome is child's-play compared with what we need to learn in neuroscience.
    The proposed funding here is less than will be spent just to get people signed up for ObamaCare.

    It's not nothing; but it's not even close to enough.

    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 10:14:02 AM PDT

  •  Considering how many new cases of TBI (6+ / 0-)

    Bush's wars have caused in the last 12 years, it's only right that we spend some money and time figuring out how (if possible) to repair that damage. And maybe learn a little about preventing it in the future.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 10:30:51 AM PDT

  •  I'm at the doctor having my brain examined... (2+ / 0-)

    ...so I haven't been able to participate.

    /semi snark

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 10:51:19 AM PDT

  •  I think any step forward here has (2+ / 0-)

    got to be seen as positive in general and is to be applauded.

    I shave my legs with Occam's razor~

    by triv33 on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:18:49 AM PDT

  •  This will barely make a difference (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave

    as the NIH budgets are being clobbered by the sequester. The initiative is important, but without funding it will not accomplish much.

    •  Initial budget is to come up with a real budget (0+ / 0-)

      In the Charlie Rose video they say that their marching orders are to propose a real budget by the middle of 2014.  Hopefully they'll propose some understandable milestones.

      Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

      by Shockwave on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:00:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I used to do a lot of Alzheimer's disease research (4+ / 0-)

    but with the funding cuts had to mostly move on to other things. We have been invested in a model that didn't work and at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference I attended (and at which I presented) it looked like people were finally starting to realize that there is more to the disease than amyloid. We need a HUGE investment in basic science research, but well connected to well-characterized elderly patients in prospective observational studies. That is very expensive and even a hundred million dollars will not be sufficient for a real breakthrough.

  •  so exciting- can't wait to see what we learn (0+ / 0-)

    I wish we knew more already. one of my bosses recently had a brain tumor removed. between (among?) the surgery, radiation, and steroids, he's a very changed man.

    some of you know me and what my real name is. my boss no longer calls me by my name. he now calls me amber-tish. I am so amazed by the changes. His wife is one of my bosses too- she and I talk a lot about how much we wish we could see what's going on in her husband's mind.

    because we both know him so well, we can fill in a lot of the blanks in what he's saying. the aphasia is very frustrating for him.

    "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

    by thankgodforairamerica on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:50:29 PM PDT

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