What is the BRAIN Initiative?

The human brain is unique among animals for its size and for the cognitive power that it produces; it is the most remarkable trait that humans possess. The brain is not just the most complex organ in the human body – in fact, it is the most complex structure in the known universe. It has been a subject of study for thousands of years, but we have barely begun to glimpse how it works. This is particularly true when we compare the brain to other organs, like the heart, lungs or kidney. Scientists have a very good understanding of how these organs work, and are able to use this knowledge as a framework for understanding problems that can occur and how to fix them. This is not true of the brain.

Neurological and psychological disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, addiction, and traumatic brain injury affect tens of millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions of people worldwide. These medical disorders are all located in the brain. Although great strides have been made in understanding and treating many of these conditions, scientists and doctors will have a much better chance of dealing with these disorders when they better understand how the brain functions.

The BRAIN Initiative aims to make a big push in understanding the structure and function of the human brain. It has been compared to the Human Genome Project for its scope and the importance of what it offers. This program, presented in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and the Chicago Society for Neuroscience, will help bring this research initiative into the public eye and raise awareness of this vital research.