It is no exaggeration to say that the human brain is an impressive organ. No other brain in the animal kingdom is capable of generating the kind of higher consciousness associated with human ingenuity, with our ability to make plans and write poetry. Yet the most complex structure in the known universe – as it is often described – is more mysterious than the least- explored regions of the deepest ocean.
All that is about to change. President Obama has already made it clear that he sees the brain as the Apollo mission of his time and he has doubled federal funding for the initial stages of his Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative to $200m.
Although still relatively small by US government standards, the initiative aims to accelerate the development and use of innovative technologies that could radically change our understanding of the human brain. The practical benefits could be immense, given the few effective treatments for the many crippling disorders of the brain, from childhood autism to senile dementias.