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Making Sense of the Brain’s Mind-Boggling Complexity

Press Release

Leading scientists in integrating and visualizing the explosion of information about the brain will convene at a conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Human Brain Project (HBP). “A Decade of Neuroscience Informatics: Looking Ahead,” will be held April 26-27 at the William H. Natcher Conference Center on the NIH Campus in Bethesda, MD.

Through the HBP, federal agencies fund a system of web-based databases and research tools that help brain scientists share and integrate their raw, primary research data. At the conference, eminent neuroscientists and neuroinformatics specialists will recap the field’s achievements and forecast its future technological, scientific, and social challenges and opportunities.

“The explosion of data about the brain is overwhelming conventional ways of making sense of it," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health. "Like the Human Genome Project, the Human Brain Project is building shared databases in standardized digital form, integrating information from the level of the gene to the level of behavior. These resources will ultimately help us better understand the connection between brain function and human health.”

The HBP is coordinated and sponsored by 15 federal organizations across four federal agencies: the National Institutes of Health (NIMH, NIDA, NINDS, NIDCD, NIA, NIBIB, NICHD, NLM, NCI, NHLBI, NIAAA, NIDCR), the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Representatives from all of these organizations comprise the Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Human Brain Project, which is coordinated by the NIMH. During the initial 10 years of this program 241 investigators have been funded for a total of approximately $100 million.

More than 65,000 neuroscientists publish their results each month in some 300 journals, with their output growing, in some cases, by orders of magnitude, explained Stephen Koslow, Ph.D., NIMH Associate Director for Neuroinformatics, who chairs the HBP Coordinating Committee.

“It’s 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,” he said. “It’s no longer sufficient for neuroscientists to simply publish their findings piecemeal. We’re trying to make the most of advanced information technologies to weave their data into an understandable tapestry.”

The conference will feature neuroscience opinion leaders on the first day, followed by HBP grantees on the second day. There will also be a poster session at the working lunch and at the reception at the end of the first day.

“The presentations will highlight what is now possible because of these 10 years of research in Neuroscience Informatics,” added Koslow.

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About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website .