President Obama, in the State of the Union Message, indicated he is likely to put the “Brain Activity Map” (BAM) project in his budget proposal in March.
Scientists will study and build a map of how the brain works. They seek to shed light on Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other mental diseases - leading to their treatment. Will this be another Space Program?
Scientists do compare BAM to the Human Genome Project, which led to cures for otherwise incurable genetic conditions. Like the Human Genome project, BAM will take a decade and cost several billion dollars...
The Genome Project cost $3.8 billion and returned $800 billion. In our previous article, Obama to Spend Half Billion Dollars on Alzheimer's Research..., a member of our audience commented, “HALF A BILLION $, WHILE IT SOUNDS ENORMOUS, IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THE LOOMING costs for this nation and its people. It is not just economic costs!...”
BAM is a complex project, since the brain has 100 billion neurons. Scientists can record only a small number at a time, too invasively to do in larger numbers. They will have to develop new recording tools.
Many prestigious scientists are in favor of the project, but some say it will not succeed. Others say it will not meet its ambitious goals, but will create stepping stones to new technologies. Often, developing new tools leads to unexpected discoveries.
Success would bring enormous improvements in quality of life. But in these mean economic times, the politicians need more. There could be the lower cost of caring for smaller numbers of seriously sick people, the greater productivity of people not held back by mental illnesses. And there could be benefits besides health care, perhaps breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, new products – and eventually, large numbers of jobs!
Watch this space, our website, for further developments!
Project Seeks to Build Map of Human Brain - NYTimes.com
Brain Activity Map Project in Planning Stages - Medscape Medical News
UC San Diego Researcher Would Help Lead Obama’s Brain Activity Map Project – KPBS UC San Diego
The Brain Activity Map Project and the Challenge of Functional Connectomics – Harvard University (somewhat techie)