Obama to unveil $100M initiative to map human brain

A high definition fiber-tracking (HDFT) map of a million brain fibers.
Walt Schneider Laboratory

WASHINGTONPresident Barack Obama is proposing a new investment into research to map the human brain in hopes of unlocking some of its mysteries, a senior administration official says.

The president planned to propose a $100 million investment for next year during remarks Tuesday morning, the White House said.

Obama mentioned the idea in his State of the Union address, comparing the potential to the Human Genome Project that mapped DNA.

"Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every dollar," Obama said in the address to Congress in February. "Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer's."

Obama wants the research to involve private institutions as well as government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. It will require the development of new technology that can record the electrical activity of more neurons in the brain and a study of the ethical implications of the advancements.

A White House statement said Obama would announce the brain research project, known as BRAIN, intended to "revolutionize our understanding of the human mind," as well as create jobs.

Obama's top science advisers would elaborate on the project's details later Tuesday, the White House statement said.

The official spoke on a condition of anonymity because the president had not yet announced the plan. It was first reported by The New York Times.

Uncovering more information about Alzheimer's disease has been a priority of the president's administration.

The Obama administration had previously announced in Jan. 2012, the United States' first National Alzheimer's Plan aimed at finding an effective treatment for the incurable disease by 2025. Alzheimer's rates have been increasing with an aging population and driving up health care costs.

The nonprofit organization, the Alzheimer's Association, released a report last month that found one in three adults over 65 dies with Alzheimer's disease or a form of dementia. Even if dementia isn't the actual cause of death, dementia can speed up decline by interfering with care for serious health problems like cancer or heart disease, the report found.