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Commemorating Ten Years of the BRAIN Initiative

May 30, 2024

On April 17, a congressional briefing commemorated ten years of groundbreaking advancements in neuroscience through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Neurotechnologies) Initiative, with an emphasis on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and connecting the research to real-world impacts in areas such as mental health.

The briefing was sponsored by the bipartisan Congressional Neuroscience Caucus, the American Brain Coalition, the Dana Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Society for Neuroscience, and The Kavli Foundation. It also featured several heavyweights from the neuroscience research community, alongside patient Jon Nelson, who was treated with deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression, and his caregiver.

“Events like last week are [a] dream come true,” shared Nelson, who was treated with deep brain stimulation as part of the study and presented with Rozell in D.C. After living through ten years of debilitating, treatment-resistant depression, Nelson says “remission of depression still doesn’t feel real. It’s been a year and a half, and I still am in awe every single day.

“The fact that I have come out of this study and found that the disease is purely an electrical deficiency in my brain has fueled me to completely pulverize the stigma of mental illness,” Nelson explained. “When you have an opportunity to go speak to Congress—that’s about as great of a platform as you can get for that. Being able to put a face to what the BRAIN Initiative funding can do for people was just amazing.”

Read the event summary or watch the full recording of the event.

The BRAIN Initiative is a public-private partnership with the goal of accelerating the development of innovative neurotechnologies to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Its communications arm, the BRAIN Initiative Alliance (BIA), consists of federal agencies, private foundations, and other science organizations who share opportunities and successes from its research investments.

In 2021, in alignment with its new focus on the intersection of neuroscience and society, the Dana Foundation joined the BIA, with a particular interest in the work the BRAIN Initiative supports and organizes around the broader societal and ethical implications of neuroscience and neurotechnology. Khara Ramos, Vice President of Neuroscience & Society at the Dana Foundation, serves on the BIA executive committee. Prior to joining the Dana Foundation in 2022, Ramos was instrumental in establishing the rapid growth of neuroethics efforts for the BRAIN Initiative, positioning the NIH as a global leader in the emerging field of neuroethics.

“At the Dana Foundation, we believe that neuroscience that’s informed by community needs and values will bring the most benefit to people,” says Ramos. “Through our own work, and in partnership with other private and public funders of neuroscience, we are advancing new models for trainees and researchers to do societally-embedded neuroscience research. This is particularly important for rapidly advancing neurotechnologies, such as those funded through the BRAIN Initiative.”

To learn more about the BRAIN Initiative, there’s still time to register for the BRAIN Initiative annual conference, June 17-18, in Rockville, Maryland. Registration is free and the meeting format is hybrid. Dana Foundation staff will be in attendance and look forward to participating in the early-career and meet-the-funders networking events.


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