NATIONAL NEUROTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE (NNTI) Overview
Neurotechnology holds the potential to transform nearly every aspect of our lives and revolutionize our conception of the human mind. The science of the brain is moving forward more rapidly than any other science today. Federal leadership is needed to guide development of this technology and bring its benefits to those who need it.
The National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI) will establish a Federal R&D program, based in a National Coordination Office (NCO), to direct multi-agency efforts in neurotechnology. It will provide an opportunity for balanced and focused strategic investment across Federal agencies to accelerate development of vitally important areas of the field.
Neurotechnology is Vital to the Nation
While the field of neuroscience is highly advanced, our understanding of how the brain works still has many gaps and our ability to repair damage remains limited. Recent discoveries are revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain, and new applications are emerging almost daily, ranging from neuropharmaceuticals to neurostimulation devices to advanced prosthetics. But critical unmet medical needs remain in almost every area of brain and nervous system disorders, including:
The national economic burden from these disorders is estimated at $500 billion and is growing alarmingly due to an aging population. Investigation into the mechanisms and functions of the brain will lead to vastly improved understanding of brain disease and injuries, human cognition and behavior, and will give us an unprecedented ability to treat and heal those in need.
A Coordinated National Effort is Needed
Very little coordination of neuroscience and neurotechnology research exists today, and researchers have recommended Federal leadership in developing the tools and knowledge needed to advance this field. Previous successful models of coordinated Federal investment initiatives include the Human Genome Project and the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Like these two programs, the NNTI would lead to a cascade of investment, discovery, applications, and benefits that can only be imagined today. At the same time, a Federal research effort can help ensure the responsible development of neurotechnology by establishing ethical guidelines and policy for research, development, and applications.
The United States Must Lead the Neurotechnology Revolution
In addition to the race to uncover the workings of the mind, there is another race underway: one that will determine where the neurotechnology industry will reside and prosper. Huge economic payoffs will accrue to the countries that successfully nurture the emerging neurotechnology industry, and the growth of strong neurotech regions will have long lasting implications on employment, infrastructure development and regional competitiveness. The 21st century race has begun with the United States in the lead, but the United Kingdom, China, Sweden, Japan and Germany are developing centers of neurotechnology excellence. Neurotechnology applications have the potential to transform highly specialized areas of medicine, computing, and defense, but also will affect the everyday lives of Americans. How this revolution plays out, and the benefits or consequences of new technologies, will depend on the US Government taking a leadership role in neurotechnology R&D.
NATIONAL NEUROTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE (NNTI) GOALS:
• Develop the supporting infrastructure and tools needed to advance neurotechnology and new treatments for the brain and nervous system;
• Develop a highly advanced, interdisciplinary, interagency R&D program in neurotechnology;
• Facilitate development and transfer of new technologies in medicine, assistive devices, learning, computing, and other products that will benefit the public good and the national interest; and
• Support responsible development of neurotechnology through research in ethical, legal and social issues arising from emerging technologies.
KEY PROGRAM AREAS:
Establishment of National Research Centers in Neurotechnology
These Centers will lead to major advances in neuroscience, give researchers greater access to data and analysis tools, co-locate imaging tools for multi-modality studies, and significantly advance neuroinformatics through computing initiatives. Advanced imaging, data synthesis and computing tools will lead to multi-scale modeling of the human brain and advanced simulation capabilities. These Centers will promote interdisciplinary study of neurotechnology through collaboration between experts in neuroscience, cognitive science, behavioral psychology, molecular biology, computer science, robotics, and other fields. Researchers nationwide have stated that improvements in their ability to exchange data, computing tools, and knowledge with each other could lead to major advances in the field.
Major Research Initiatives in Neurotechnology
Federal investments must be focused on key problems in neurotechnology, neuroscience and computing. This research will build on and unify existing efforts at NSF, NIH, DoD, and DOE. The Initiative will identify "Grand Challenges" in neurotechnology, which will contribute significantly to the advancement of the field. These research initiatives will be targeted at both the necessary basic science and at applications that will benefit the public good. Initiatives include: a brain interface device to process motor and sensory signals; a computer simulation of cognitive patterns; growth of brain tissue (neurogenesis); neurally-controlled prosthetics; improved learning tools based on cognitive science and computing; and a Brain Simulation Project (a major Federal research effort in multi-scale mapping and simulation of the brain, which could bring a major leap in understanding of the brain and cognition, much like the Human Genome Project led to a revolution in genetics).
Translational Development of Neurotechnology
To ensure United States leadership in neurotechnology the Federal government must invest in programs that accelerate the deployment and application of neurotechnology research in the private sector. The Initiative will improve United States competitiveness and economic productivity by utilizing existing Federal programs, such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Research Program, as well as the development of target initiatives such as investment tax credits for investors in neurotech companies that will encourage private investment.
Research in Consideration of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues
There are many potential issues to consider in the development of neurotechnology, both in the short and long terms. Dedicated funding will be provided to ensure that these considerations are addressed in the research process, so that scientists, the public, and policymakers can have a meaningful dialogue on these issues.
Authorize a National Coordination Office for Neurotechnology R&D to oversee and coordinate activity in FY2008 for NSF, DoD, VA, NIH and others to jointly pursue establishment of the National Neurotechnology Initiative, incorporating other Federal research agencies as appropriate.
Please contact Zack Lynch for more information on this important initiative.