Thursday, July 24, 2014
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EDIT: Obama seeking to boost study of human brain

The Obama administration is preparing a decade-long scientific project to examine the inner workings of the human brain and to build a comprehensive map of its activity, according to The New York Times. The aim is to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, finally, consciousness. The administration claims that such research will potentially serve as a step towards developing the technology needed for understanding and conquering diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, in addition to finding new ways to treat a variety of mental illnesses, according to the Times. However, the project could cost billions of federal dollars. The Times said it will be included in Obama’s budget proposal next month, though it is not clear how much federal money will be proposed or approved for the project. Without significant funding, however, especially in a time of national fiscal constraints, it is unlikely the research will go very far, no matter how intriguing understanding the workings of the human brain and consciousness may be.

Obama has testified to how valuable such research is for reasons both scientific and economic: For every dollar America spent on the Human Genome Project, for example, he says $140 went back in the U.S. economy, according to the Times. But Obama must still be careful when funneling federal money into a massive scientific agenda, and he must take pains to make sure federal funds are directed where they are needed elsewhere, as well. But on the whole, advancing the country’s scientific knowledge and progress should certainly hold a place on the Obama administration’s agenda. It has been said that the reputation and advancement of the U.S. in the field is lagging, which is part of the reason for Obama’s recent  STEM education initiative.

Certainly, the results of undertaking the project sound beneficial, specifically because mental diseases seem to plague the country, while more generally speaking, the project serves as a strong rallying point for advocating modern research and scientific progress. And channeling federal money to brain research is not likely to diminish finances elsewhere, as other health-related causes are frequently funded by private organizations and donations. Moreover, understanding the mysteries of the brain could be the key to unlocking a wealth of knowledge that is yet inaccessible to the world.

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