Some of the new awards include the creation of a wireless optical tomography cap for scanning human brain activity; a noninvasive brain-computer interface system for improving the lives of paralysis patients; testing noninvasive brain stimulation devices to treat schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder and other brain diseases.
The BRAIN Initiative is an organization that gives researchers the tools needed to understand the neural circuits that occur in healthy and unhealthy brains. The initiative is supported through regular appropriations and the 21st Century Cures Act. With the new investment, the 2018 total support for the program is more than $400 million, more than 50% of what was spent last year.
Some of the new awards are helping to explore the human brain directly while the NIH tries to leverage some of the initiatives advances to help tackle the pain and opioid crisis.
“Brain diseases are some of the greatest mysteries in modern medicine. These projects will provide new tools and knowledge needed to discover answers for some of the most difficult neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders,” Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, said in a press release.
More than 100 research institutions received awards to support the projects of nearly 500 investigators in fields like engineering and psychology. The NIH is also funding the development of new tools and technologies that are able to capture a dynamic view of brain circuits in action, which includes the development of self-growing biological electrode for recording brain activity and the creation of an indestructible hydrogel system that naps neural circuits.
“New tools to map the brain deepen our understanding of how circuit activity relates to behavior” Dr. Joshua Gordon, director of the NIH’s Nation Institute of Mental Health, said. “The BRAIN Initiative is laying the foundation for improved ways to target brain circuits disrupted in brain disorders.”
The NIH is also using the BRAIN initiative-funded advances to help fight the opioid crisis and find alternative pain treatments.
“Our country is in the midst of a serious public health challenge from drug use. We hope the advances made by BRAIN Initiative researchers will help us rapidly solve the problems we face in treating pain and opioid addiction,” Walter Koroshetz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said in a press release.