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Funding initiative will take brainpower

On Tuesday, President Obama announced a campaign supporting brain research, starting with mapping the human brain.

It’s hoped the Brain Activity Map project will lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke – increasing problems in an aging society – as well as autism, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury, the lingering curse of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

But the initial funding request is modest. Obama said he would ask Congress for $100 million in 2014 to begin brain mapping. By contrast, mapping the human genome – the body’s set of genetic instructions – cost the government $2.7 billion by the time it was completed in 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The president is counting on that initial investment to leverage massive amounts of investment – from foundations, philanthropists and private companies.

In addition to the research’s medical benefits, Obama envisions millions of Americans ”suddenly finding new jobs in these fields – jobs we haven’t even dreamed up yet – because we chose to invest in this project,” he said Tuesday in introducing the project.

If the Initiative even partially attains its lofty aims, the scientists and other researchers behind it will have earned the gratitude of generations. But the money first must be raised to fund it.

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