The U.S. National Institutes of Health is spearheading a multi-billion dollar collaborative project to map the billions of neurons in the human brain. The goal is to discover the mysterious inner workings of the brain to better understand mental illnesses and brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and autism.
Scientists hope that the effort will have the same wide-reaching effect on brain research and knowledge that the Human Genome Project had on genetics. Completed in 2003, the 13-year Human Genome Project mapped all of the genes in human DNA. The project cost $3.8 billion, but had an $800 billion return on investment by 2010—more than paying for itself in terms of dollars and lives saved.
The brain mapping project is estimated to take about 10 years and cost at least as much as the Human Genome Project.
Experts believe the Brain Activity Map project holds great promise and is critical to making greater advances in neuroscience.
"This initiative has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of neural circuits, providing the fundamental knowledge that is critical for developing treatments for a host of neurological and psychiatric disorders," said Dr. David Fitzpatrick, scientific director and chief executive officer of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.
"Unbiased approaches such as this and such as the Human Genome Project are most useful in revealing 'unknown unknowns' -- information that we would never learn through standard logic and hypothesis-testing because these connections would never cross our minds," said Dr. Sam Gandy, associate director at the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in New York City.
Protecting Your Brain
While new research continues to give us hope, you may be asking, what can I do to support a healthy brain right now? In honor of Brain Awareness Week, we hope you find these recent posts helpful: