NIH BRAIN Initiative Funds Next-Generation Human Imaging following Early Push by ASNR and Other Societies

After a concerted push by ASNR and several other societies in 2014 for more emphasis on human brain imaging in the Obama Administration’s BRAIN Initiative grant program, NIH has heeded the call by funding 27 imaging-specific projects over the past three grant cycles.

In October, NIH announced its third round of grants to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, bringing the Institute’s total fiscal year 2016 investment to just over $150 million. Over 100 new awards, totaling more than $70 million, will go to over 170 investigators working at 60 institutions.

In 2014, ASNR President Gordon Sze, MD, announced progress in shaping the NIH approach: “We were concerned that human neuroimaging was being minimized in favor of basic research, both in terms of content and in terms of funding, with an emphasis from the bottom up, neuron by neuron, as opposed to the top down, with an emphasis on circuits. We are pleased to report that the NIH’s initial funding requests for proposals have been centered on human imaging.”

The NIH concentration on both imaging and human subjects continues to grow, as evidenced in the latest funding cycle, which includes 12 grants in the category of Next-Generation Human Imaging. “This year, more projects will be based, at least in part, on data from humans,” said Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD, director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health.

NIH highlights the creation of a blueprint for a wearable PET scanner as one of its breakthrough projects. The research at West Virginia University and University of Virginia aims to create a device that would not only mitigate the problem of human movement during scanning but also allow brain imaging during a natural state, such as walking through a park.

The latest round of funding includes a project from University of North Carolina radiologists to employ machine-learning techniques to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

More information on funded awards is at: https://braininitiative.nih.gov/funding/fundedAwards.htm
Active funding opportunities are listed here: https://braininitiative.nih.gov/funding/index.htm, including additional imaging grants (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-EB-17-001.html; LOI due Dec. 20; Application due Jan. 20)

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