New Initiative Concepts: Potential Opportunities

The Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative is an ambitious multi-agency effort aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. Specific goals for NIH contributions to the Initiative were formulated over a year-long planning process that culminated in the release of BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision, a seminal planning document produced by a working committee of the Advisory Council to the NIH Director. NIH continues to be guided by this document and by input from the BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG), a group that includes council members from each of the ten NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) contributing to the NIH BRAIN Initiative, and the BRAIN Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG), a group of experts in neuroethics and neuroscience that serves to provide the NIH BRAIN Initiative with input relating to neuroethics.

Concepts represent early planning stages for new initiatives. A concept describes the basic purpose, scope, and objectives of a potential solicitation of grants or contracts. Concepts presented to the BRAIN MCWG are posted here to alert researchers to areas of NIH BRAIN Initiative research interest and to give researchers maximal lead time to plan projects. Please note that not every concept will lead to a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). The NIH BRAIN Initiative bases this determination on scientific and programmatic priorities and the availability of funds. Furthermore, even if they do convert, the actual FOA may differ in certain details from its originating concept.

Visit the NIH BRAIN Funding Opportunities page for the most current list of NIH BRAIN Initiative FOAs.

The NIH BRAIN MCWG provide feedback on new initiative concepts, but the formal concept clearance on new initiatives and re-issues are conducted at the lead IC’s Advisory Council.

The following table includes information on recent initiative concepts presented to the NIH BRAIN MCWG:


Council Round Concept Title Point of Contact Description Link to MWCG Discussion
2022/01 Non-Invasive Brain Functional Imaging Technology Development Shumin Wang (NIBIB) This concept aims to support multi-disciplinary, synergistic, and integrative approaches for bridging the gap between multiple scales/aspects of brain functional imaging. The human brain is a dynamic system, and its understanding requires the synthesis of information at multiple spatial/temporal scales and from different aspects. In addition to completely new modalities and pushing the envelope of existing imaging technology, this initiative strongly encourages multi-disciplinary, synergistic approaches for the development of integrative systems. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 48:03 and ends at 1:34:16
2021/10 Brain Behavior Quantification and Synchronization Holly Lisanby (NIMH) and Dana Greene-Schloesser (OBSSR) This concept aims to develop new high-resolution tools and data science approaches to precisely quantify behaviors and synchronize them with brain activity data, build new conceptual and computational frameworks of behavioral systems, and disseminate new tools to the research community. Developing rigorous and precise brain-behavior quantification systems is expected to accelerate discovery of basic brain science underlying complex behaviors and enable intervention development for behavioral and neurological disorders. Presentation and Discussion (discussion begins 1:03:44 and ends at 2:10:44)
2021/10 BRAIN Team TIE (Training, Inclusion, and Equity) Short Courses for Skills Development in Neuroscience Neeraj Agarwal (NEI) This concept aims to facilitate the development of a skilled cadre of investigators with requisite knowledge and skills in neuroscience-related techniques, setting them up for future success. The courses will be designed for trainees and junior faculty, including those from diverse backgrounds. The course topics included computational analysis, neuroethics integration, data management/analysis, in vivo recording and modulation methods, and others. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 2:25:28 and ends at 2:50:25)
2021/01 BRAIN Initiative Armamentarium Research Resources at Minority Serving Institutions and Institutional Development Award-Eligible Institutions Doug Kim (NIMH) This concept expands upon a transformative project that is aimed to create a brain cell-type armamentarium (RFA-MH-20-556, This concept will build new infrastructure for reagent development, production, and use at minority-serving and Institutional Development Award (IDeA)-eligible institutions. Importantly, it will also enhance the competitiveness of neuroscience applicants and foster partnerships between under-resourced and resource-rich institutions. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 2:50:42 and ends at 3:26:36)
2020/10 BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Phase III Yong Yao (NIMH) This concept aims to: 1) generate comprehensive brain cell atlases that encompass molecular, anatomical, and functional annotations of brain cell types (neurons, glia, and other non-neuronal cells) in human and other species, thereby providing a framework to enable both basic neuroscience and brain disorders-focused research; 2) develop and use scalable technologies and multimodal assays to enhance the capability and capacity of large-scale brain cell census; and 3) coordinate across and beyond the BRAIN Initiative toward establishing a broadly accessible data ecosystem for brain cell types and circuits. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 1:20:20 and ends at 1:58:42)
2020/05 Organizing Resources for Brain Cell Type-Specific Access & Manipulation Across Species Doug Kim (NIMH) This concept aims to evaluate viral, non-viral, transgenic, and gene regulatory element screening technologies and create reagent resources to access brain cell subtypes and monitor and manipulate circuits. Reagent production efforts will apply gene transfer, gene regulation, genome engineering, activity sensor/effector, and atlasing technologies for use in both genetically tractable and less tractable systems, including primates and human tissue, which are relevant for future translational efforts. Reagent validation studies will provide feedback to improve scaled resources, informed by deeper understanding of neural gene transfer and regulation mechanisms. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 51:30 and ends at 1:19:30)
2020/05 Next Generation Technologies for Brain Microconnectivity Analysis Ruben Alvarez (NICHD) This concept aims to stimulate development of next generation technologies for creating microconnectomes. Efforts will address the status, limits, and comparison of different imaging modalities (e.g., electron microscopy, expansion light microscopy), integration of connectomes across multiple scales, the advantages and disadvantages of using living versus post?mortem brain tissue, pipelines for tissue preparation, imaging, segmentation, proofreading, data analysis and storage, samples (sex, strain, individual variation), and feasibility of constructing partial- and whole-brain connectomes in several mammalian species. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 1:19:43 and ends at 1:42:30)
2019/05 Models of the Developing Human Nervous System David Panchision (NIMH) The goal of this concept is to stimulate basic research to develop next-generation human cell-derived assays, including those involving human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), with improved fidelity to complex human brain, spinal cord, and/or sensory end organ circuit physiology, particularly with respect to developmental trajectories. The optimization of these models has potential to address critical basic science analytic challenges in studying the human brain. Additionally, they will facilitate analysis of brain diseases by permitting a mechanistic linkage of complex genetic contributions to higher order function. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 1:53:00 and ends at 2:27:30)
2019/05 Marmoset Projects Greg Farber (NIMH) and Ned Talley (NINDS) The goal of this concept is to expand existing colonies of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) for neuroscience research in the United States. Marmoset behavior is similar in many ways to human behavior and the technology for germ line transmission of exogenous genetic information is now possible. However, existing colonies and commercial sources are currently unable to provide sufficient marmosets for neuroscience research. The concept also aims to continue the development of the robust tools and technologies for transgenic manipulation and characterization of marmosets. Presentation and Discussion (discussion starts at 2:27:50 and ends at 2:38:10)