President Obama's BRAIN initiative could look to biophotonics techniques

U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative will aim at helping researchers and scientists find new ways—including optogenetics and optical brain imaging, for example—to treat, cure, and possibly even prevent brain disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and autism.

Related: President Obama honors IBM scientists for laser technology that enables LASIK

The program is a part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget proposal. If approved by Congress, it would include $100 million in investments, with approximately $50 million allocated to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), $40 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and $20 million to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"...with the help of NSF funding, researchers at MIT have developed a 3D 'light switch' using an optogenetics technique that manipulates neurons with light," explains Optical Society (OSA) CEO Elizabeth Rogan, who testified last month before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to call for such federal investments in research and development (R&D) funding. "The 3D tool enables unprecedented precision to activate single neurons at a precise location with a beam of light. The technology may one day help treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and enable the quest to map the circuitry of the brain. Biomedical optics research like this has the potential to change the lives of many, and the U.S. government is poised to advance these technologies through federally funded programs like the BRAIN initiative."

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