200+ UK Neuroscientists Reject Obama’s Human Brain Project
More than 200 “prominent scientists” from Oxford, University College in London and the Max Planck Institute have published an open letter to the European Commission (EC) to demand opting out of the Human Brain Project (HBP).
The letter reads in part: “… we wish to express the view that the HBP [Human Brain Project] is not on course and that the European Commission must take a very careful look at both the science and the management of the HBP before it is renewed. We strongly question whether the goals and implementation of the HBP are adequate to form the nucleus of the collaborative effort in Europe that will further our understanding of the brain.”
These neuroscientists are asking for an “independent review” of the HBP and explanation for the exorbitant funding this scheme has received for “board-based neuroscience projects” that have no purpose.
The neuroscientists that signed the open letter have vowed not to participate in the HBP.
In 2013, President Obama devoted an initial $100 million in taxpayer money to fund the HBP.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH); DARPA; and privately funded institutions such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Kavil Foundation (KF), and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (SIBS) will share in the initial $300 million Obama set aside to kick off the project.
To understand the brain, how it functions, how the neuro-network connects, the NIH has brought together researchers and scientists from the Rockefeller University and Stanford University will assist in creating a human brain blueprint and co-chair the governmental council that oversees the entire project.
Its goal is to: “Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. Imagine if someone with a prosthetic limb can now play the piano or throw a baseball as well as anybody else, because the wiring from the brain to that prosthetic is direct and triggered by what’s already happening in the patient’s mind. What if computers could respond to our thoughts or our language barriers could come tumbling down. Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields — jobs we haven’t even dreamt up yet — because we chose to invest in this project.”
According to a white paper entitled, “The Brain Activity Map Project and the Challenge of Functional Connectomics”, HBP would facilitate research that would allow wireless applications for the human brain as well as possibly give governmental access to targeting specific populations.
The study states: “This emergent level of understanding could also enable accurate diagnosis and restoration of normal patterns of activity to injured or diseased brains, foster the development of broader biomedical and environmental applications, and even potentially generate a host of associated economic benefits.”
Indeed, the HBP allows governments and private entities to define mental illness, neuroscience and psychiatric disorders. This will redefine society, families and individuals from predictive measures to treatment in “acute” stages.
HBP has outlined initiatives such as:
- Key investments to jumpstart the effort: The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation will support approximately $100 million in research beginning in fiscal year 2014.
- Strong academic leadership: The NIH will establish a high-level working group co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann of The Rockefeller University and Dr. William Newsome of Stanford University, to define detailed scientific goals for the NIH’s investment, and to develop a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including timetables, milestones and cost estimates.
- Public-private partnerships: Federal research agencies will partner with companies, foundations and private research institutions that are also investing in relevant neuroscience research, such as the Allen Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
- Maintaining our highest ethical standards: Pioneering research often has the potential to raise new ethical challenges. To ensure that this new effort proceeds in ways that continue to adhere to our highest standards of research protections, the president will direct his Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to explore all ethical, legal and societal implications raised by this research initiative and other recent advances in neuroscience.
Obama said that the HBP will develop technologies that are expected to record all electrical activity in the brain (as well as individual brain cells) to decipher “the speed of thought”.