A central goal of the BRAIN Initiative is to understand how electrical and chemical signals code information in neural circuits and give rise to sensations, thoughts, emotions and actions. While currently available technologies can provide some understanding, they may not be sufficient to accomplish this goal. For example, non-invasive technologies are low resolution and/or provide indirect measures such as blood flow, which are imprecise; invasive technologies can provide information at the level of single neurons producing the fundamental biophysical signals, but they can only be applied to tens or hundreds of neurons, out of a total number in the human brain estimated at 85 billion.
Other BRAIN FOAs seek to develop novel technology (RFA-NS-17-003) or to optimize existing technology ready for in-vivo proof-of-concept testing and collection of preliminary data (RFA-NS-17-004) for recording or manipulating neural activity on a scale that is beyond what is currently possible. This FOA seeks applications for unique and innovative technologies that are in an even earlier stage of development than that sought in other FOAs, including new and untested ideas that are in the initial stages of conceptualization.
In addition to experimental approaches, the support provided under this FOA might enable calculations, simulations, computational models, or other mathematical techniques for demonstrating that the signal sources and/or measurement technologies are theoretically capable of meeting the demands of large-scale recording or manipulation of circuit activity in humans or in animal models. The support might also be used for building and testing phantoms, prototypes, in-vitro or other bench-top models in order to validate underlying theoretical assumptions in preparation for future FOAs aimed at testing in animal models.
Invasive or non-invasive approaches are sought that will ultimately enable or reduce the current barriers to large-scale recording or manipulation of neural activity, and that would ultimately be compatible with experiments in humans or behaving animals. Applications are encouraged from any qualified individuals, including physicists, engineers, theoreticians, and scientists, especially those not typically involved with neuroscience research.
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