BRAIN Initiative Cell Atlas Network

The BRAIN Initiative Cell Atlas Network (BICAN) aims to build reference brain cell atlases that will be widely used throughout the research community, providing a molecular and anatomical foundational framework for the study of brain function and disorders.  

Building on findings from the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network, BICAN takes the next step in mapping brain cells and circuits across multiple species, with an emphasis on humans. 

BICAN supports eleven grants projected to total $100 million annually over 5 years. The aim of these awards is to generate complete reference atlases of brain cell types in human, non-human primates, and mouse across the lifespan, which can be shared and used throughout the research community. In addition to developing a “parts list” detailing the vast array of neurons and non-neuronal cells in the human brain, the project also aims to map cell interactions that underlie a wide range of brain disorders. 

BICAN is one of three NIH BRAIN Initiative transformative projects outlined in The BRAIN Initiative® 2.0: From Cells to Circuits, Toward Cures report. Together with the BRAIN Initiative Connectivity Across Scales (BRAIN CONNECTS) Network and the Armamentarium for Precision Brain Cell Access, these large-scale projects promise to transform neuroscience research, illuminating foundational principles governing the circuit basis of behavior and informing new approaches to the treatment of human brain disorders. 

Related Information  

NIH BRAIN Initiative Transformative Projects  

NIH BRAIN Initiative Launches Projects to Develop Cell Atlases and Molecular Tools for Cell Access 


Yong Yao, Ph.D.
NIH BRAIN Initiative Cell Census and Cell Atlas Program Manager 
National Institute of Mental Health