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Wed, Apr 3, 2013 -- 9:00 AM

Obama Invests in Brain-Mapping Project


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AFP/Getty Images
With a combination of genetic tricks and fancy proteins, researchers have labelled hundreds of individual neurons with distinctive hues to create a "brainbow" in the brains of mice.
AFP/Getty Images
With a combination of genetic tricks and fancy proteins, researchers have labelled hundreds of individual neurons with distinctive hues to create a "brainbow" in the brains of mice.

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled a new initiative to map the human brain. The plan is to invest $100 million starting in 2014, so scientists can create a "road map" of the brain's circuits, similar to the documentation done for the Human Genome Project. The initiative could develop tools to help treat diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and it's being co-led by a Stanford scientist. But critics say there are no clear end goals and no set deadline, and that the money could be better used elsewhere.

Host: Michael Krasny

Guests:

  • Carl Zimmer, science writer who writes frequently for National Geographic and the New York Times and a three-time winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Journalism Award
  • Edward "Eddie" Chang, associate professor of neurosurgery and physiology at UCSF; he's been able to map the brain of human subjects by recording the brain's activity while the patient is undergoing brain surgery
  • John Ngai, professor of molecular and cell biology and director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley
  • Partha Mitra, professor of neuroscience and theoretical biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; he runs the Mouse Brain Architecture Project, which maps the brains of mice
  • William "Bill" Newsome, co-leader of the BRAIN initiative; professor of neurobiology, Standford School of Medicine

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