Seattle scientists hail Obama's $100 million brain study

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 HealthLink

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KING5.com

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 7:35 PM

President Obama was in good humor Tuesday as proposed a new government initiative that will explore details of the brain.

"We still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears," he said.

Obama dedicated $100 million in federal dollars to help brain research. Specifically, the money will be used to make new tools to help researchers.
 
In Seattle, the Allen Institute for Brain Science had a key role in developing the new federal policy, according to the Senior Investigator for Neural Coding Clay Reid. Reid says he was inspired to hear the president talking about brain research.

"It was exciting to see the president talking about neuroscience,” Reid said. 

Reid says the type of work the president talked about -  mapping neural connections, figuring out how brains receive and send messages and figuring out the brain’s cell structure - is something the institute is already working on.

Obama was “essentially talking about the type of neuroscience that is going on right here at the Allen Institute," said Reid.
 
In a conversation with Paul Allen one year ago, Allen told KING 5’s Jean Enersen: "I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the human brain. I'm awed by its enormous complexity. Our brains are more advanced in the way they work than any computer software that has ever been invented."

Allen, whose mother died this past summer because of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, says the practical applications of the research will be slow to materialize.

“The process of fundamental research takes time, takes many, many years,” said Reid.
 
 Swedish Hospital’s Dr. John W. Henson heads the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. He says trying to develop the tools to unravel the brain’s mysteries could be a daunting task, but he added Obama’s leadership and funding are a good start. 

"I would argue that it is almost as complicated as accomplishing time travel. It is going to be very, very complicated," said Henson.
 

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