~e; the Human Brain Project

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Wed, 27 Nov 2002 01:27:15 -0600

Neuroinformatics: The Human Brain Project



Understanding brain function requires the integration of information 
from the level of the gene to the level of behavior. At each of these 
many and diverse levels there has been an explosion of information, 
with a concomitant specialization of scientists. The price of this 
progress and specialization is that it is becoming virtually impossible 
for any individual researcher to maintain an integrated view of the 
brain and to relate his or her narrow findings to this whole cloth. 
Although the amount of information to be integrated far exceeds human 
limitations, solutions to this problem are available from the advanced 
technologies of computer and information sciences.

On April 2, 1993, the Human Brain Project was announced and published 
in the NIH Guide, grant applications for Phase I feasibility studies 
were solicited. Four new program announcements were issued on August 5, 
1999. (1) The Human Brain Project (Neuroinformatics): Phase I & Phase 
II. PAR-99-138; (2) Neuroinformatics Institutional Mentored Research 
Scientist Development Award. PAR-99-136; (3) Curriculum Development 
Award in Neuroinformatics Research and Analysis. PAR-99-135; and (4) 
Short Courses in Neuroinformatics. PAR-99-137. The Human Brain Project 
is a broad-based initiative which supports research and development of 
advanced technologies, and infrastructure support, through cooperative 
efforts among neuroscientists and information scientists (computer 
scientists, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians). The goal is to 
produce new digital capabilities providing a World Wide Web (WWW) based 
information management system in the form of interoperable databases, 
and associated data management tools. Tools would include, and are not 
limited to, graphical interfaces, querying and mining approaches, 
information retrieval, data analysis, visualization and manipulation, 
integrating tools for data analysis, biological modeling and 
simulation, and tools for electronic collaboration. The Neuroscience 
database will be interoperable with other databases, such as genomic 
and protein databases, to create the capability to analyze functional 
interactions in greater depth. Tools will also need to be created to 
manage, integrate and share this resource via the WWW providing the 
capability for channels of communication and collaboration between 
geographically distinct sites. These databases and tools will be used 
by neuroscientists, behavioral scientists, clinicians and educators, in 
their respective fields, to understand brain structure, function, and 
development across the many levels and areas of data collection and 

The Human Brain Project evolved from the concept of a National Neural 
Circuitry Database; the idea of developing such a national resource was 
evaluated by a committee empanelled by the National Academy of 
Science's Institute of Medicine. A summary of that evaluation, which 
spanned two years and included consultation with about 150 scientists, 
was published in the summer of 1991 by the National Academy Press as a 
book entitled Mapping the Brain and its Functions: Integrating Enabling 
Technologies into Neuroscience Research. The report recommended that 
this initiative, now called the Human Brain Project, be implemented.

Because the scope of the Human Brain Project extends to all facets of 
brain and behavioral research and includes a range of technology 
sciences, this initiative is sponsored, in a coordinated fashion, by 
fifteen federal organizations across four federal agencies: the 
National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Mental Health, 
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Aging, National 
Institute on Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on 
Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Library of 
Medicine, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National 
Institute of Dental Research, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse 
and Alcoholism, the Fogarty International Center, the National 
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Cancer 
Institute), the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics 
and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy. Representatives 
from all of these organizations comprise the Federal Interagency 
Coordinating Committee on the Human Brain Project.

In the long term, the Human Brain Project will provide more than just a 
sophisticated array of information technologies to help scientists 
understand how various aspects of brain function fit together. It will 
also make available to researchers powerful models of neural functions, 
and facilitate hypothesis formulation and electronic collaboration. The 
technologies and standards which are developed as part of the Human 
Brain Project will serve as models for other scientific information 
tools. The Human Brain Project will, therefore, have impact far beyond 
the community of brain and behavioral researchers, and this impact will 
be felt long after the end of the Decade of the Brain.


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