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Investing in Research to Help Unlock the Mysteries of the Brain

The President’s 2016 Budget proposes increasing funding for the BRAIN Initiative from about $200 million in FY 2015 to more than $300 million in FY 2016.

On April 2, 2013, President Obama launched the Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a Grand Challenge designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Since then, the BRAIN Initiative has grown to include five Federal agencies. The BRAIN Initiative remains a top priority for the Administration, which is why the President’s 2016 Budget proposes increasing funding for the BRAIN Initiative from about $200 million in FY 2015 to more than $300 million in FY 2016.

This increased investment will support a wide range of interdisciplinary projects aimed at developing and applying cutting-edge technologies to create a dynamic picture of the brain in action, providing the critical knowledge base for researchers seeking new ways to treat brain disorders. These projects include the following Agency efforts:

  • National Institutes of Health: NIH will support a diverse set of projects, including developing new devices to record and modulate activity in the human nervous system and revolutionizing human neuroimaging technologies to understand how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in time and space.
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: DARPA will focus on leveraging brain-function research to alleviate the burden of illness and injury and provide novel, neurotechnology-based capabilities for military personnel and civilians alike. In addition, DARPA is working to improve researchers’ abilities to understand the brain by fostering advancements in data handling, imaging, and advanced analytics.
  • National Science Foundation: NSF will focus on generating an array of physical and conceptual tools needed to determine how healthy brains function over the lifespan of an organism, including humans. NSF will also focus on the development and use of these tools to produce a comprehensive understanding of how thoughts, memories, and actions emerge from the dynamic actions of the brain.
  • Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity: IARPA will focus on applying breakthroughs in neuroscience to advance understanding of cognition and computation in the brain. In addition, IARPA will test and validate non-invasive neural interventions that have the potential to significantly improve adaptive reasoning and problem solving.
  • Food and Drug Administration: FDA will focus on enhancing the transparency and predictability of the regulatory landscape for neurological devices. FDA’s efforts will also include a new program that would speed the availability of certain medical devices that address unmet public health needs while ensuring that patients receive high-quality, safe, and effective medical devices, including those that treat brain disorders.

The BRAIN Initiative is further supported by non-Federal partners. Major foundations, private research institutions, universities, and patient advocacy organizations have committed over $240 million to the BRAIN Initiative. In addition, members of the National Photonics Initiative, regional clusters like the Pacific Northwest Neuroscience Neighborhood, and companies such as GE, GlaxoSmithKline, and Inscopix have joined this effort through commitments of more than $30 million in research and development investments.

We want to hear about other activities that align with the goals of the BRAIN Initiative! If your organization is pursuing new or expanded activities that advance our understanding of the brain, tell us by emailing

Learn more:

Monica Ramirez Basco is Assistant Director for Neuroscience, Mental Health, and Broadening Participation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Robbie Barbero is Assistant Director for Biological Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.