John Donoghue, professor of neuroscience, and Arto Nurmikko, professor of engineering, were on hand at the White House Tuesday morning, April 2, as President Barack Obama announced a new “Grand Challenge” initiative called BRAIN — Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. Donoghue, who directs the Brown Institute for Brain Science and is also a researcher at the Providence VA Medical Center, is part of a group of scientists that has helped catalyze the idea of developing the tools and techniques needed to measure and sense brain activity at the scale of the neural networks that produce thoughts, behaviors, and (when they are not working properly) disease. Scientists today can study smaller scales of dozens of neurons with electrodes or very large-scale brain activity with MRI scans, but this crucial middle scale of thousands or millions of neurons is currently out of reach. Donoghue will serve on an advisory committee to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins to help shape the initiative’s development.

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