Three new notices of funding opportunities with initial receipt dates in July 2022 launch the BRAIN Initiative Connectivity across Scales (BRAIN CONNECTS) Network, marking the start of a new transformative project enabling unprecedented brain-wide mapping capability of neural circuits in mice, humans, and non-human primates.
Transforming 21st century neuroscience with ground truth connectivity maps
Detailed maps of neural connectivity are key to understanding how the brain works. Ever since Ramon y’ Cajal first revealed the structure of neurons over a century ago, neuroscientists have long awaited a detailed understanding of how they are connected to one another. Much like a map is needed to navigate a city, connectivity maps hold the promise of helping scientists better navigate and explore uncharted territories in the brain. Connectivity maps of smaller brains such as C.elegans and Drosophila have shown the transformative power of such resources to change the ways in which hypotheses are generated and tested. Understanding the human brain requires an ambitious scaling of current technologies to generate connectivity maps of whole mammalian nervous systems. The enormity of this challenge necessitates an interdisciplinary effort from fields including neuroscience, engineering, computational and molecular biology, mathematics, computer and data sciences, and bioethics. The tools, discoveries, and resources that emerge from this project have the potential to transform how neuroscience research is conducted in much the same way sequencing the human genome transformed how biomedical research is conducted. The scientific advances facilitated by connectivity maps promise unprecedented insight into the human brain in health and disease.
Origins of BRAIN CONNECTS as a transformative project
The BRAIN Initiative Connectivity across Scales (BRAIN CONNECTS), one of three BRAIN Initiative transformative projects, was developed following recommendations by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0 and from a series of workshops in spring 2021 that were co-hosted by the NIH and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Brain Connectivity Workshop Series, brought together members of the scientific community and other stakeholders to explore the state of the art in mapping complete neural circuits and the challenges and opportunities associated with producing and analyzing whole brain wiring diagrams at the level of synapses (“connectomes”) and long-range axonal projections (“projectomes”) to drive scientific discovery.
BRAIN CONNECTS funding opportunities target connectivity mapping at multiple scales
The technological and intellectual infrastructure needed for such an ambitious endeavor require a concerted effort across institutions and laboratories. Together these notices of funding opportunities (NOFOs) initiate the BRAIN CONNECTS Network aimed at developing the research capacity and technical capabilities to generate wiring diagrams that can span entire brains across multiple scales.
This NOFO solicits applications for Comprehensive Centers to develop the research capacity and technical capabilities to map human and non-human primate (NHP) brain connectivity, with goals of brain-wide coverage and comprehensive mapping of region-to-region connectivity at the level of axonal projections. Proposals may focus on a sub-volume of the central nervous system (CNS), provided the volume is sufficiently large to demonstrate feasibility of collecting, reconstructing, analyzing, integrating, disseminating, and interpreting projection-level connectivity maps of entire brains.
This NOFO solicits applications for Comprehensive Centers to develop the research capacity and technical capabilities to map mouse brain connectivity, with goals of brain-wide coverage and comprehensive mapping of local and long-range cell-to-cell connectivity at the level of synaptic connections. Proposals may focus on a sub-volume of the CNS, provided the volume is sufficiently large to demonstrate feasibility of collecting, reconstructing, analyzing, integrating, disseminating, and interpreting projection-level connectivity maps of entire brains.
This NOFO supports Specialized Projects to develop current or emerging technologies to generate comprehensive atlases of brain connectivity, with an emphasis on human, NHP, and mouse. Applications may address any aspect(s) of brain connectivity and associated data pipelines, to enable faster, more precise, and more cost-effective generation and interpretation of brain-wide wiring diagrams.
The application receipt dates for all three NOFOs is July 13, 2022. All applications require a Plan for Enhancing Diverse Perspectives (PEDP). Applications without this new component will be withdrawn prior to review. An investigator’s PEDP will be evaluated during peer review as part of scorable criteria and used to inform funding decisions. More information on the PEDP can be found here.