The National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative will finish 2018 with its largest round of grant funding ever, giving $220 million to more than 200 research awards, and bringing this year’s total to more than $400 million, according to an announcement from the agency.
The BRAIN Initiative began in 2013 with the objective of revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain by accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies that will allow researchers to show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space and thereby seek new ways to treat, cure, and prevent brain disorders.
In the current round of funding that was authorized by Congress through the regular appropriations process and the 21st Century Cures Act, new projects include the creation of a wireless optical tomography cap for scanning human brain activity; the development of a noninvasive brain-computer interface system for improving the lives of paralysis patients; and the testing of noninvasive brain stimulation devices for treating schizophrenia, attention deficit disorders, and other brain diseases; the development of self-growing biological electrodes for recording brain activity; and the creation of an indestructible hydrogel system to help map neural circuits, according to the announcement.
Not all of the research involves technological advancement. In fact, one line of funding involves neuroethics. For instance, for epilepsy syndromes in the latest round of funding for 2018, researchers aim to explore ethical issues confronting families and clinicians when considering new treatment options for drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
The NIH is also leveraging some of the BRAIN Initiative funding toward finding new, nonaddictive pain treatments as part of the its HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, such as support for research on the fundamental neurobiology of endogenous opioid systems.