U of M scientist to help shape BRAIN Initiative

5:19 PM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Scientists are hailing President Barack Obama's proposal that Congress spend $100 million next year to start a project to explore the brain. 

It's called the BRAIN Initiative which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies.

At a press conference at the White House on Tuesday, Obama said it could lead to groundbreaking new treatments.

"There's this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked," the President said.

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota, was at that official announcement.

"It was very exciting," Ugurbil said.

He is on a committee of 15 scientists chosen through the National Institutes of Health that will help shape the BRAIN Initiative.

"We certainly understand aspects of brain function, but we are very far from a comprehensive understanding," he said.

He said the brain is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.

"Targeting the brain is a much more complex issue than the genome project," he said.

Plenty of brain research has been done here in Minnesota. Ugurbil said the U of M is a world leader in Magnetic Resonance Imaging. So, if the initiative is approved, he is hopeful some of the funds will come here for new projects.

"The University of Minnesota stands a very good chance of capturing some of this funding," he said.

He believes the research, while broad, could ultimately lead to new ways to prevent autism, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, psychiatric diseases and more.

Plus, he thinks the U.S. needs The BRAIN Initiative to stay in the lead.

"I can assure you the rest of the world is about to catch up or go beyond us," he said.

Obama will ask for $100 million in start-up funds for the BRAIN Initiative in his 2014 budget next week.

Ugurbil said more money will eventually be needed to fund all the research.

It is estimated brain diseases cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $500 billion annually in the United States.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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