The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.
As brainy gatherings go, it takes some beating. Neuroscientists are meeting in New York today to agree on a global mission to understand the workings of the human brain and how to fix it when something goes wrong. The lofty aim of the Coordinating Global Brain Projects meeting is to unify worldwide efforts to study the brain, in the same way that international collaborations have spurred on astronomy, physics and genetics. "Neuroscience is coming of age, and it's now ready for big science," says Rafael Yuste at Columbia University in New York, who organised today's meeting with Cori Bargmann at Rockefeller University, also in New York. "This is the first real meeting with all the players in the same room together," says Yuste.
Imagine infusing thousands of wireless devices into your brain, and using them to both monitor its activity and directly influence its actions. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, and for the moment it still is – but possibly not for long. Brain research is on a roll at the moment. And as it converges with advances in science and technology more broadly, it's transforming what we are likely to be able to achieve in the near future. Spurring the field on is the promise of more effective treatments for debilitating neurological and psychological disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and depression.
The MESO-BRAIN project, awarded with € 3.3 million in funding from the European Commission as part of its Future and Emerging Technology scheme, aims at 3D printing human neural networks mimicking the brain's structure and function. These 3D networks are to feature specific biological architecture and the ability to interrogate the network's brain-like activity both electrohpysilogically and optically. The research team will us human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), that have been differentiated into neurones. The scaffolds for these cells are produced using a 3D laser printer capable of creating objects on a nanoscale. Nano-electrodes will be incorporated into the structure for downstream analysis of the network's function.