The success of the BRAIN initiative will depend on widespread access to the technological advancements, computational tools, and data sets created by the initiative. However, there are no existing mechanisms for providing national access to the increasingly technologically and computationally oriented investigations of the brain. The barriers to entry are both financial and structural: not only is technologically intensive neuroscience costly, it requires an investment in physics, engineering and computer science beyond the scope of individual laboratories. This prevents the community's efficient utilization of current technological capabilities and limits the questions and hypotheses that will drive the next generation of innovation. Thus there is a need to counteract the widening gap between the small fraction of laboratories developing and utilizing the most recent technology and the remaining majority of neuroscientists. The successful removal of the gap will require a sophisticated national clearing house to ensure that the correct physics, engineering, and computer science tools are vetted and freely accessible for measurements of brain structure and functions. Successful accomplishment of these goals will require an iterative process whereby specific needs of the neuroscience community will be identified and either paired with the appropriate scientific, technological and computational resources or pipelined for potential future innovation. The model for the operation of this project will be a user facility, housed at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and leveraging the existing resources of their science facilities. This award provides funding for seed grants for infrastructure development, conferences, education, and outreach.
The team will enlist the Physics of Living Systems community, most specifically the young scientists therein, to join the neuroscience research effort by connecting to the graduate research network led by the NSF Physics Frontier Center for Theoretical Biological Physics. In order to engage and train a broad community, several annual conferences will be held that will cover a broad range of topics in imaging and quantitative neuroscience. The team will augment the program run by the UC Neuroscience Institute to teach Neuroscience to local 7th/4th graders. Almost all of the students in the target schools are African American and live in the local South Side community. ANL will partner with this endeavor by support through its own educational programs, but for the first time broaching the technology of neuroscience.