The Berkeley Brain Initiative comprises three initial, high-priority scientific goals that build on Berkeley’s unparalleled breadth and depth of research excellence and that promise great potential impacts for society. We will create powerful tools to study mechanisms of thought, devise experiments to decode perception and cognition, and achieve fundamental understanding of the brain and mind, and thus of human experience.
Understanding the brain requires new ways to record neural activity. We will design the world’s most advanced MRI technology to enable experiments that reveal how we see, hear, or think. We developed 3D-printed, flexible MRI receive coils to improve imaging of immobile or infant patients. We will innovate mind-controlled prosthetics to assist after a stroke or traumatic injury.
The human brain relies on sophisticated code to communicate between billions of interconnected components and generate every thought and sensation. We’ve revealed important clues to the codes for vision, touch, and hearing. With powerful new tools — such as the Million-Neuron Brain Modem — we will study neural processing across the entire brain for the first time, in order to crack the code.
By leveraging expanded knowledge about the brain’s capacity for computation, we will help improve the digital technology in our lives for better, faster computing. The vast amounts of behavioral data generated by mobile phones and social media can reveal the workings of the mind; we will apply mathematical methods to interrogate such data at unprecedented scales.
Realizing our vision for the Berkeley Brain Initiative involves convening the right people and providing them with world-class technology, space, and other resources to accelerate the pace to game-changing breakthroughs. Our strategy emphasizes six core elements.
We will expand our exceptional faculty — the dreamers and visionaries who fuel our engine of discovery — in order to accelerate the emergence of transformative technologies for human abilities, health, and society. We aim to recruit and retain leading scholars through competitive start-up funding, world-class research facilities, and access to top-of-class graduate students.
Today’s graduate students become tomorrow’s neuroscience leaders who will build on their accomplishments. We will actively seek and attract the most talented candidates for our education program — those students with the most promising ability to advance research and technology — through competitive fellowship and funding packages. Our students learn the latest neurotechnologies, including several developed at Berkeley, in order to acquire and analyze the complex, large-scale data essential to achieving our scientific goals.
To accomplish our ambitious goals, we must create novel cross-disciplinary combinations of expertise to conceive risky ideas that are less likely to secure funding from traditional sources without a proof of concept. The Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge incentivizes ultra-innovative research so that our brightest minds are enabled to think boldly and to reach further into the unknown. This competitive source of seed funding catalyzes connections across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities to target gaps in our knowledge about the brain and mind.
We will bring together the best minds in the most powerful and effective ways by building a dedicated facility for neuroscience: a centralized hub for interdisciplinary investigation. Designed to encourage frequent and fruitful interactions, home to dozens of active labs, this will be the place where barriers are broken to reach new frontiers of understanding.
From lens-less microscopes to ultra-high-resolution MRI, Berkeley engineers and scientists will extend our track record of invention and innovation. We will create cutting-edge technologies that explore the brain much more clearly, in order to learn how it operates from the molecular level to the level of conscious cognition. The Berkeley Brain Initiative will leverage these technological innovations to dramatically accelerate scientific breakthroughs and fundamental knowledge of humanity itself.
As a premier public research university, Berkeley seeks impact for its intellectual activity far beyond campus boundaries. We will share new knowledge and tools to improve public welfare and impel economic growth through: research symposia at the interface of basic science and broader applications; training our academic and industry peers in emerging technologies; and public events to increase awareness of the latest insights about brain science and health.