U.S. BRAIN Initiative


Official White House photograph of NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and President Barack Obama
announcing the BRAIN Initiative. By Chuck Kennedy via Wikimedia Commons


On April 2, 2013, President Obama announced a bold new research initiative, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The BRAIN Initiative ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and prevent many diseases of the brain. The BRAIN Initiative is a collaborative effort among many government agencies and private sector partners.

ABC is working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House on several projects to disseminate information about this important initiative and what it will mean for patients and their families. Visit Advocacy Updates for the latest information on all ABC’s activities.


To help shape this new initiative, NIH established a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD). The group established that the overarching goal of NIH’s contribution to the BRAIN Initiative would be to facilitate the development and use of tools for acquiring fundamental insight about how the nervous system functions in health and disease. Visit NIH.gov for more information.

  • In June 2015, NIH held a workshop to explore the role of industry partnerships to facilitate early access to brain devices for human clinical studies.
  • On June 5, 2014, Advisory Committee to the NIH Director released a report articulating the scientific goals of the BRAIN Initiative and a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals.
  • View NIH’s BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision

NIH Directors, Drs. Joshua Gordon and Walter Koroshetz presenting at 2018 BRAIN Fair.


The NSF portion of the BRAIN Initiative aims to generate an array of physical and conceptual tools needed to determine how healthy brains function over the lifespan of humans and other organisms. The agency is also working to develop a workforce to create and implement these tools aimed at establishing a more comprehensive understanding of how thoughts, memories and actions emerge from the dynamic activities in the brain. Visit NSF.gov for more information.

  • On August 12 2015, NSF announced it had awarded a total of $13.1 million for 16 new projects part of NSF’s support for integrative, fundamental brain research and the BRAIN Initiative
    Watch “Mysteries of the Brain” produced by NBC Learn in partnership with NSF.
  • NSF recently partnered with the Society for Neuroscience and The Optical Society to host a Capitol Hill briefing on mysteries of the brain and new frontiers in neuroscience.


DARPA seeks to develop a new understanding of complex, systems-based disorders of the brain and is supporting the BRAIN Initiative through a number of programs. One of DARPA’s goals is to interface directly with neurons and create precision therapies for military personnel. Visit DARPA.mil for more information.

  • The Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program aims to help the human body heal itself through neuromodulation of organ functions using ultraminiaturized devices.
  • The Neuro Function, Activity, Structure and Technology (Neuro-FAST) program seeks to enable unprecedented visualization and decoding of brain activity to better characterize and mitigate threats to the human  brain.
  • The Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program aims to develop and test a wireless, fully implantable neural-interface medical device for human clinical use. The device would facilitate the formation of new memories and retrieval of existing ones in individuals who have lost these capacities as a result of traumatic brain injury or neurological disease.
  • The Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program seeks to create implanted diagnostic and therapeutic systems for treating neuropsychological illnesses.


  • In 2014, IARPA joined the BRAIN Initiative. IARPA sponsors several applied research programs that use multidisciplinary approaches to advance our understanding of cognition and computation in the brain. Currently active neuroscience programs include:
  • Knowledge Representation in Neural Systems (KRNS), which seeks insights into the brain’s representation of conceptual knowledge, Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS), which will reverse-engineer the algorithms of the brain to revolutionize machine learning; and Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-solving (SHARP), which will develop non-invasive neural interventions for optimizing reasoning and problem-solving.

Visit IARPA.gov for more information.


FDA was announced as a partner in the BRAIN Initiative on Sept. 30, 2014. The FDA seeks to increase the transparency of the regulatory process for developers of new neurological medical devices and technologies and works closely with those developing implantable device to record and modulate brain function.

  • FDA released a guidance on their Expedited Access Pathway (EAP) program for certain medical devices that demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for life threatening or irreversibly    debilitating diseases.
  • FDA held a public workshop in November 2014 on Brain Computer-Interface devices.


Check out the White House factsheet for more information on how leading companies and research institutions are committing to support the goals of the BRAIN Initiative.

The BRAIN Initiative has involved numerous private-sector partners:

Several universities and foundations are aligning their research interests with the BRAIN Initiative, including:

American Brain Coalition

P.O. Box 1549 | Maple Grove, MN 55311 | Phone: (763) 557-2913