Congressional briefing highlights groundbreaking BRAIN Initiative research, including personal accounts from people with lived experience

The in-person briefing allowed members of Congress and key staffers to learn about breakthroughs in research from the BRAIN Initiative and to engage with a BRAIN study participant directly benefitting from advanced neurotechnologies.  

On June 14, the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus (CNC) led a briefing to highlight the ambitious and unprecedented undertakings of the BRAIN Initiative, as well as the breakthrough research being achieved to improve the lives of millions of people every day. In partnership with the American Brain Coalition, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the Dana Foundation, and the Simons Foundation, the meeting successfully showcased the transformative discoveries funded by the NIH BRAIN Initiative.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the CNC provided opening remarks, emphasizing the trailblazing research the BRAIN Initiative has facilitated. His remarks were followed by Dr. John Ngai, Director of the NIH BRAIN Initiative, who emphasized that we are at the cusp of incredible breakthroughs in our understanding of the human brain and changing the course of history by pushing forward an ambitious research agenda. Dr. Ngai spoke about treatments that have so-far been developed based on BRAIN Initiative research, along with the long-term vision for more discoveries, in order to build the next generation of treatments, cures, and perhaps even preventions.

A major highlight of the briefing was hearing from a person living with a neurological disorder on the real-world applications of advanced brain research. Living true to the BRAIN Initiative’s core tenet, “Accelerating Discovery Toward Cures,” Katie participated in the briefing to share how cutting-edge neurotechnologies are changing her life. Katie participated in a BRAIN study at the Baylor College of Medicine, led by Dr. Wayne Goodman, professor and D.C. and Irene Ellwood Chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Nicole Provenza, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Baylor was the lead author on the study, working with Principal Investigator, Dr. Sameer Sheth, vice chair of research and McNair Scholar in the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor and lead surgeon in the study. Katie shared her story of living with debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and the major strides she’s made in her life with the help of Dr. Provenza and deep brain stimulation (DBS).

A panel discussion was moderated by BRAIN-funded investigator and Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG) member, Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, from Duke University Medical Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. It included conversations with Jennifer French, the Executive Director of the Neurotech Network and MCWG member, and Dr. Ed Lein, a BRAIN-funded investigator and Senior Investigator with the Allen Institute. Among the discussions, Ms. French shared how advances in brain research and technologies have benefitted her directly, allowing her to have mobility in her arms and legs, which had been paralyzed after a spinal cord injury.  Dr. Lein described how his lab is applying the tools of mapping brain cells and circuits to study the progression of Alzheimer’s disease through the Seattle Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Cell Atlas Consortium, a project funded by the National Institute on Aging.

During the briefing, CNC Co-Chair, Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) shared his personal connection to the BRAIN Initiative’s mission, explaining his history with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained during his time in the U.S. military. He has since deeply invested himself and his time in understanding the human brain, to include obtaining a degree in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The briefing ended with the panelists stressing the importance of the BRAIN Initiative, as it seeks to further develop an understanding of the human brain and its inner workings. 

Read more about the Congressional briefing here.

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black and white image of people working on laptops at a counter height table on stools at the annual BRAIN meeting