What neuroscientists think of the BRAIN Initiative

In general, they seem to like it. But with reservations. The Obama Administration's highly touted brain-mapping program — pitched as a neurological analog to the Human Genome Project — might be approaching the problem of how the brain works in the wrong way. In particular, if the Initiative only focuses on mapping activity in the brain, it's going to miss out on the ways activity and neural architecture work together to create a functioning system.


  1. Interesting set of comments by those investigators, but they can really be restated as the follows:
    Yuste: I wrote the proposal that was funded, so I’m quite happy with the whole thing.
    Mitra: My completing proposal for solving this problem is better.
    Fields: You’re ignoring the cell type I have built my whole career on!

    1. This centralized approach will aggregate researchers into a network of the “in group” and the “out group.”   Bad research by the “in group” will get funded, good research by the “out group” won’t.

  2. That actually seems pretty similar to the problem with the human genome project — that it focused entirely on the structure of the genome and failed to divulge much about gene expression (and how the structure and gene expression work together to create a functioning system). 

    At least by searching under the street light we can determine that our car keys are not located there.

    1.  The Human Genome Project ended with a thud, well a series of thuds as it got each additional tronch of money.

      One big source of  waste was the amount of effort put into statistical approaches which skeptics said never had any concrete or theoretical hope of success.

      1. the problem is not the statistical approach itself, it’s the fact that 90% of the researchers don’t know anything about these techniques and use them inapproprietaly.

  3. WTF is it with the US and turning everything into a stupid acronym – STOCK Act, BRAIN Initiative … are our attention spans really that degraded that we can’t make sense of something unless it is literally spelt out for us?

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