With a $3 billion U.S. commitment announced in 2013 called BAM (Brain Activity Mapping) and a $1 Billion EU effort called the Human Brain Project, the race to map the 100 billion neurons of the human brain has begun.
This effort follows the Bush administration Decade of the Brain, which provided important technology advances but also demonstrated that major advances are foreseeable and achievable. Just as the global effort to map the human genome required massive governmental, university, and private industry effort, this is already supporting a similar effort.
It is particularly important to understand
the incredible amount of
University research now occurring since this basic R&D
will drive the
ensuing wave of commercial R&D.
Many of the private industry and industry supported University R & D efforts will be eligible for Federal Research and Development tax credits. Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost
of supplies, cost of testing,
contract research expenses, and costs associated with
developing a patent. On
January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the bill extending the
Tax Credit for 2012 and 2013 tax years.
Sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Human Connectome Project is a five year project divided between two consortia of research institutions. The first of three Grand Challenges of the NIH's Blueprint for Neuroscience Research began in July 2009.
In September 2010, the NIH announced that it would award two grants which include $30 million over five years to a consortium led by Washington University and the University of Minnesota, and $8.5 million over three years to a consortium led by Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California.
The HCP is focused on creating a "network
map" that will explain the
anatomical and functional connectivity of the human brain. In
creating a network map, there is a focus on generating a body
of data that will
facilitate research into brain disorders like dyslexia,
disease, and schizophrenia.
The Washington University and University of Minnesota team initiative will map the connectomes in 1,200 healthy adults on a macro-scale using twin pairs and their siblings from 300 families. The maps will illustrate the anatomical/functional connections between the parts of the brain for each person and will correlate to behavioral test data.
Comparing the connectomes and genetic data of identical twins to fraternal twins will help identify the roles of genes and environment in shaping brain circuitry and reveal relevant genetic variation. Brain network organization will also be illustrated within this brain mapping effort.
Numerous leading institutions will be contributing to this project through investigation and research. These institutions include: Washington University, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota, Oxford University, Saint Louis University, Indiana University, University d'Annunzio in Chieti, Ernst Strungmann Institute, Warwick University, Advanced MRI Technologies, and the University of California at Berkeley.
The data that results from this HCP
research effort will be made public and
will be accessible by web via neuroinformatics platform.
"The MGH/Harvard-UCLA consortium will focus on optimizing MRI technology for imaging the brain's structural connections using diffusion MRI, with a goal of increasing spatial resolution, quality, and speed."
For this initiative, a new scanner was designed and is expected to be four to eight times as powerful as current imaging systems. This system will enable imaging of human neuroanatomy with much greater sensitivity and detail than currently possible.
The two consortia described above will also be sharing data and results with each other.
University Brain Mapping Efforts
Major U.S. research universities are engaged in a wide range of Brain Mapping R&D activities, as briefly summarized below:
The brain mapping project is a massive interdisciplinary endeavor that will require the integration of behavioral psychology, imaging, electrical engineering, genetics, bio chemistry, anatomy, computer science, robotics, and numerous other technical disciplines. The next ten years are anticipated to be the "Golden Age of Brain Research".
Brain mapping will advance knowledge related to disease causes, prevention, and cures, including Alzheimer's. This large amount of basic research and development at the University level will lead to large amounts of commercial R&D necessary to convert the results to market ready products and services.
Recent research findings have linked
certain DNA pathways to autism, ADHD,
bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and
believe that these disorders share common genetic roots and
Dr. Anil Malhotra
said "DNA pathways common to all five have been clearly traced
brain". The continued initiatives in brain mapping combined
potential DNA link could accelerate the path to reductions and
cures for these
diseases as well as others.
In early 2102, a $300 million award was made by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to the Allen Institute in Seattle to fund the first 3 years of a ten year project to study mouse brains.
Why start by mapping a mouse brain rather than a human brain? The concept is that it should be much easier to map a simpler brain first. A mouse brain is only .5 grams while a human brain is 3,000 times larger. A mouse brain has 70 million neurons a fraction of the neurons in a human brain. Although this is personal commitment by Mr. Allen it is anticipated that knowledge gained brain mapping will also eventually lead to the design of more sophisticated computers.
The major brain mapping related funding commitments discussed above are summarized in the following table:
Thinking tax professionals have an opportunity to be one of the many technical disciplines contributing to this important effort. R&D tax credits are an important part of this thinking.
Charles R Goulding Attorney/CPA, is the President of R&D Tax Savers.
Andrea Albanese is a Manager with R&D Tax Savers.
Charles G Goulding is a practicing attorney with experience in R&D tax credit projects for a host of industries.
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