The New York Times reports that the Obama administration plans to spearhead a scientific effort over the next decade that aims to build a comprehensive map of activity in the human brain. The effort will reportedly involve scientists from federal agencies and private foundations that will work together to advance our understanding of perception, actions, and consciousness. The Times says that the project seeks to accomplish the same level of impact that the Human Genome Project had on genetics, and scientists see it as a way to potentially find new therapies for illnesses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. As Google futurist Ray Kurzweil observes, the effort also "holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence."

"The project holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence."

President Obama cited the importance of brain research during his recent State of the Union address, but did not lay out specific plans; "today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer's," he said. "Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy." The White House has not confirmed the plans, but some, like National Institute of Health director Francis S. Collins, have acknowledged the effort.

The Times reports that scientists involved in the project hope for the same level of funding that drove the Human Genome Project: about $300 million a year over the next 10 years. NIH, DARPA, and the National Science Foundation are expected to participate on the federal side, and foundations like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Allen Institute for Brain Science are said to be involved on the private side.