Brain Mapping Project Could Help Find Cures For Alzheimer's, Epilepsy

President Obama calls the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies) Initiative a 'bold effort.'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Audie Cornish.

Today, President Obama announced a new $100 million initiative to map the human brain. NPR's Mara Liasson reports the White House is predicting the project could eventually help find cures for diseases like epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The BRAIN in the BRAIN Initiative stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. Mr. Obama compared the project to previous government investments in basic research that led to computer chips, the Internet and GPS technology He also the described the BRAIN Initiative as a continuation of successful efforts to map the human genome.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, as humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.

(LAUGHTER)

LIASSON: It won't be easy, the president said.

OBAMA: If it was, we'd already know everything there was about how the brain works. And presumably, my life would be simpler here.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: It would - could explain all kinds of things that go on in Washington.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: We could prescribe something.

(LAUGHTER)

LIASSON: Although the White House has said the BRAIN project would take many years, the president today called it a bold effort and predicted it could lead to dramatic scientific advancements.

OBAMA: Think about what we could do once we do crack this code. Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson's or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we can reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home.

LIASSON: The initial $100 million investment in the project will be included in the budget President Obama submits to Congress next week. Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House.

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