Revised December 2013
The NIH is excited to release its first round of funding opportunities in support of the President’s BRAIN Initiative. Collectively, these opportunities focus on building a new arsenal of tools and technologies for helping scientists unlock the mysteries of the brain. The six funding announcements were developed in response to one or more of the high priority areas identified by the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director’s BRAIN Working Group in its interim report. These areas, endorsed by both the ACD and the NIH Director on September 16, reflect the first step in establishing the scientific and technological agenda for the BRAIN Initiative at the NIH. NIH investments will total $40 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and will involve a coordinated, cooperative effort between interdisciplinary scientific teams and with NIH program staff.
The first two announcements focus on developing methods for classifying and accessing the diverse cells and circuits of the brain:
- RFA-MH-14-215 Transformative Approaches for Cell-Type Classification in the Brain (U01) (addresses ACD recommendation #1) – aims to pilot classification strategies to generate a systematic inventory/cell census of cell types in the brain, integrating molecular identity of cell types with connectivity, morphology, and location. These pilot projects and methodologies should be designed to demonstrate their utility and scalability to ultimately complete a comprehensive cell census of the human brain.
- RFA-MH-14-216 Development and Validation of Novel Tools to Analyze Cell-Specific and Circuit Specific Processes in the Brain (U01) (addresses ACD recommendations #1 and #2) – aims to develop and validate novel tools that possess a high degree of cell-type and/or circuit-level specificity to facilitate the detailed analysis of complex circuits and provide insights into cellular interactions that underlie brain function. A particular emphasis is the development of new genetic and non-genetic tools for delivering genes, proteins and chemicals to cells of interest; new approaches are also expected to target specific cell types and or circuits in the nervous system with greater precision and sensitivity than currently established methods.
Three of the announcements focus on developing and optimizing technologies for recording and modulating collections of cells that function together as a circuit:
- RFA-NS-14-007 New Technologies and Novel Approaches for Large-Scale Recording and Modulation in the Nervous System (U01) (addresses ACD recommendations #3, #4, and #5) – focuses on development and proof-of-concept testing of new technologies and novel approaches for large scale recording and manipulation of neural activity, with cellular resolution, at multiple spatial and/or temporal scales, in any region and throughout the entire depth of the brain. The proposed research may be high risk, but if successful could profoundly change the course of neuroscience research.
- RFA-NS-14-008 Optimization of Transformative Technologies for Large Scale Recording and Modulation in the Nervous System (U01) (addresses ACD recommendations #3, # 4,and #5) – aims to optimize existing and emerging technologies and approaches that have the potential to address major challenges associated with recording and manipulating neural activity. This FOA is intended for the iterative refinement of emergent technologies and approaches that have already demonstrated their transformative potential through initial proof-of-concept testing, and are appropriate for accelerated engineering development with an end-goal of broad dissemination and incorporation into regular neuroscience research.
- RFA-NS-14-009 Integrated Approaches to Understanding Circuit Function in the Nervous System (U01) (addresses ACD recommendations #5 and #6) – focuses on exploratory studies that use new and emerging methods for large scale recording and manipulation to elucidate the contributions of dynamic circuit activity to a specific behavioral or neural system. Applications should propose teams of investigators that seek to cross boundaries of interdisciplinary collaboration, for integrated development of experimental, analytic and theoretical capabilities in preparation for a future competition for large scale awards.
The final announcement is to support the formation of interdisciplinary teams of scientists to develop the next generation of non-invasive imaging technologies for human research.
- RFA-MH-14-217 Planning for Next Generation Human Brain Imaging (R24) (addresses ACD recommendation #7) – aims to create teams of imaging scientist together with other experts from a range of disciplines such as engineering, material sciences, nanotechnology and computer science, to plan for a new generation of non-invasive imaging techniques that would be used to understand human brain function. Incremental improvements to existing technologies will not be funded under this FOA.
More information is also available at the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative web site.