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Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative Cell Census – Phase III


Yong Yao, Ph.D.
Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science


This concept aims to (1) generate comprehensive brain cell atlases that encompass molecular, anatomical, and functional annotations of brain cell types (neurons, glia, and other non-neuronal cells) in human and other species, thereby providing a framework to enable both basic neuroscience and brain disorders-focused research; (2) develop and use scalable technologies and multimodal assays to facilitate the large-scale brain cell census efforts; and (3) establish a broadly accessible data ecosystem to disseminate brain cell census data and knowledge.


The BRAIN 2025  Report envisioned a systematic census of neuronal and glial cell types in multiple mammalian species. The NIH BRAIN Initiative has implemented this vision by successfully completing a 3-year pilot phase (FY14-16), followed by launching a 5-year phase 2 (FY17-21) BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN) with an emphasis on mouse brain. The BICCN has applied a set of advanced single-cell approaches to characterizing molecular signatures, anatomical phenotypes, and functional properties of brain cell types, and rapidly disseminated the cell census data to the public. The BICCN is on track to complete a comprehensive, high-resolution and spatially resolved cell atlas spanning the entire adult mouse brain. In parallel, the BICCN has initiated the cell census in human and non-human primate brains. The initial results suggest that the brain’s cellular makeup conserve broadly across human, monkey, and mouse. The knowledge and insight gained from the BICCN thus provide a foundation to implement the BRAIN2.0  vision for creating a comprehensive, anatomically informed, highly granular cell census of human brain as a new emphasis of the BRAIN Initiative phase 3 cross-species cell census efforts.