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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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BRAIN Initiative

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President Obama proposed $100 million in federal funding toward the Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies Initiative ("BRAIN Initiative"). The President likened the BRAIN Initiative to the Human Genome Project, the Apollo space project, and the internet, stating, "[i]magine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury and PTSD for our wounded veterans…."

The President intends to send this proposal to Congress next week as part of his budget. Surprisingly, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke out in favor of the proposal.

“Mapping the human brain is exactly the type of research we should be funding, by reprioritizing the $250 million we currently spend on political and social science research into expanded medical research, including the expedited mapping of the human brain. It's great science,” Cantor said in a statement.

I am surprised by Cantor's support for this type of federal spending because this appears to be inconsistent with his focus on cutting the federal defecit. How will we pay for this initiative? Will we borrow the money from China? There is no doubt that this research may lead to amazing discoveries that benefit mankind. I'm just perplexed by the politics of a $100 million project that we cannot afford.

In fairness to supporters of the project, it is a private-public initiative, with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Paul Allen brain mapping project, and other private entities. The $100 million in federal funds will come from the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.