We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

A Moon Shot for the Brain

To better understand the brain's wiring, European and U.S. governments made big commitments to brain research this year.

By Kat McGowan
Jan 7, 2014 6:23 PMNov 12, 2019 5:25 AM
Cliparea/Custom Media/Shutterstock; PJMorley/Shutterstock


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Despite all we know about individual brain cells, neurobiologists can’t explain how it all fits together — how each cluster of cells communicates with the others. But in hopes of drafting better wiring diagrams of the brain, European and U.S. governments in 2013 made big commitments toward studying how nerve cells link up and synchronize. 

In January, the European Commission pledged 1 billion euros for the Human Brain Project consortium to build a functioning digital version of a whole brain. And in April, President Barack Obama announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, a plan to fund new research exploring how neural regions link up.

One potential BRAIN goal is to inventory, for the first time, all the types of neural cells — there may be as many as a thousand in a mouse brain alone. 

Another goal is to record electrical activity from a million living cells at once; current systems record only a few hundred at a time. The terabytes of data that will flow from these experiments would in turn demand new computational and statistical approaches and new ways to permit thousands of labs to share information. 

BRAIN’s long-term goals and budgets aren’t yet set, but federal science, health and defense agencies have pledged $110 million for 2014.

[This article originally appeared in print as "A Moon Shot for the Brain."]

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.