News from NIH

The NIH Brain Initiative launched with $100 million is going to focus on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that will show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space.

Understanding the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information all at the speed of thought. NIH intends to allocate $40 million for the initiative in FY14 and collaborate closely with DARPA and NSF.

In a NIH brain study, a compact self-contained sensor was able to record and transmit brain activity data wirelessly in early stage animal tests. The report on this study has been published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering. In addition to allowing for more natural studies of brain activity in moving subjects, this implantable device represents a potential major step toward cord-free control of advance prosthetics that move with the power of thought.

Through recent advances in Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI), it is possible for a person to control a robotic arm through implanted brain sensors linked to powerful external computers.

To avoid infections, the researchers know that the device needs to be very small and completely sealed off to protect the delicate machinery inside the device and the delicate surrounding tissues.

At the same time, the device has to be powerful enough to convert the brain’s subtle electrical activity into digital signals that can be used by a computer to boost those signals to a level detectable by a wireless receiver located some distance outside the body. The device also has to be rechargeable but the recharging must be done wirelessly.

In other NIH news, according to working with the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) and their Working Group on Data and Informatics, The leader of NIH Dr. Frances S. Collins plans to recruit a new NIH leadership position focused on data science. The Associate Director for Data Science will lead a series of NIH-wide strategic initiative to capitalize on the exponential growth of biomedical research data available from genomics, imaging, and EHRs. 

To address workforce issues, NIH is looking for comments and suggestions on how to implement the recommendations from the ACD Working Group on Biomedical Research Workforce. The Working Group has defined major issues affecting the workforce, gathered data on the current workforce, heard from multiple stakeholders, and solicited input on major issues from the public.

 NIH has issued RFI (NOT-OD-13-045) on February 21, 2013 inviting comments on workforce issues with responses due by April 22, 2013. Go to  for more information or email

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