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US to start research to study human brain

Washington, April 3, 2013

The White House unveiled details on Tuesday of a new initiative to study the human brain with the goal of creating effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other disorders.

Called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (Brain) Initiative, the programme aims to help researchers see how brain cells and neural circuits interact through technology that produces "dynamic pictures" of the brain.

It is to be funded with $100 million from President Barack Obama's fiscal 2014 budget. The White House is slated to release Obama's budget next week.

The Democratic president, who is in a standoff with Republican lawmakers over how to reduce the US deficit, has maintained that investment in areas such as education and research and development are critical even as spending cuts are necessary to address the country's fiscal woes.

Obama made that case again when unveiling the initiative at a White House ceremony filled with scientists.

"There is 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," he said.

"We can't afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead. We have to seize them. I don't want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here," he said.

The funding requires congressional approval, but agencies have some discretion to start working on the programme ahead of time, a White House spokesman said.

The programme drew praise from groups advocating for Alzheimer's and autism research.

"The federal government has realised incredible success when it invests in tackling challenges of this magnitude, and Alzheimer's will be no different," said Harry Johns, president and chief executive of the Alzheimer's Association, in a statement.

"Investments in brain research such as this project are essential for understanding and developing better treatments for autism," said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, in a statement.

Two reports released last month showed that deaths and the risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease have risen significantly in the United States during the last decade.

Researchers said in February that the number of US residents aged 65 and older living with the brain-wasting disease would nearly triple to 13.8 million by 2050, drawing attention to the need for further study. – Reuters




Tags: US | research | brain | Washington |

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