BRAIN Initiative cut 40%

Dear Colleagues,

As some of you are well aware, the BRAIN Initiative funding was cut by 40% ( ; $402m FY2024 from $680 FY 2023) and is set to expire by 2026. “This is truly awful, This large cut to the BRAIN Initiative is, simply put, going to kill jobs and hurt patients over the next 10-20 years.” – Kip Ludwig, PhD

I email you today to ask you to contact your government representative to fund the BRAIN Initiative and encourage your colleagues and trainees to do the same:

Why it’s important?

Government officials (eg NIH Program officers/staff) cannot lobby for funding of science BY LAW. It is UP TO US AS TAXPAYERS to lobby our elected representatives understand in lay terms how basic (foundational) and translational science accelerates economic growth and helps the taxpayers that they represent. As scientists and engineer, it doesn’t matter if we work in the academic or private sector, if we’re faculty, staff, or trainee, it is OUR JOB as taxpayers to lobby our government officials to understand value of government funded science, technology development, and translational deployment of new treatments. For those in position of advisership and mentorship, please take 15 minutes to communicate this important role to your trainees (and that our job is not to do science isolated in an ivory tower). For trainees, realize that this scientific outreach is part of your training and practice to communicate with your elected representatives. Not doing this important role negatively affects your science, career, taxpayers, patients, and your loved ones.

We can make a difference (Lessons from 2018)

In 2018, I asked many of you to participate in an aggressive campaign at the end of PHASE 1 BRAIN Initiative to submit an RFI as BRAIN leadership intended to cancel all Neurotechnology RFA because “we already invested in technology development in PHASE1, therefore we’ve finished developing new technologies and we should only fund grants that apply BRAIN Phase1 technologies for circuit research.” With your support, we were able to show the BRAIN working group why this was short sighted and keep Neurotechnology RFAs  reissued (RFA-EY-23-001, RFA-NS-24-004, RFA-NS-24-005).

Silence is harmful (Lessons from 2017)

In 5/2017, NIH announced the implementation of a Grant-Support-Index (GSI) system that would ensure that no PI will have more than 3 R01s to support career advancements of New Investigators. Less than a month later, NIH did a full reversal that collectively angered all new PIs and postdocs. “What the **** was NIH thinking?” But the reality was that not a single person that like the GSI system provided any feedback to the NIH and the feedback that NIH received was from the loud 1% with 4+ R01s.

Current climate (post-Covid)

The current reality is that there’s still a lot “loud minority” due to the COVID vaccines and shutdowns. This means that our silence is complacency to the loud minority. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich went from ‘we should have tripled the NIH budget’ to changing his mind because the pandemic convinced him that the NIH had become unaccountable “a system that clearly is out of control”. We as tax payers need to put provide the counter messaging for all of the evidence that the BRAIN Initiative is a good investment.


I have provided a draft that you can modify and fill in.



Subject: Urgent Appeal: Continued Support for the BRAIN Initiative


Dear [Representative's Name],


As [title] at the [your Institute] , we are writing to emphasize the critical importance of maintaining funding for the BRAIN Initiative. With the recent passage of the budget bill funding the government until the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2024, it is imperative that we ensure continued support for this vital initiative.

 [2-5 sentences about 1) the work you do 2) importance to taxpayers, patients, 3) jobs it supports (how many do you employ in your group)/’your career prospects’ and/or 4) how does this work help the vulnerable people you love]

 While we understand the need for adjustments in funding levels, it is essential to recognize the significant impact that the BRAIN Initiative has had on advancing neuroscience research and improving patient care. From innovative brain stimulation technologies to revolutionary brain-computer interfaces, the BRAIN Initiative has been at the forefront of driving groundbreaking discoveries and technological innovations.

 Of particular significance are the comprehensive brain cell atlases developed through the BRAIN Initiative, which have provided invaluable insights into the genetic, cellular, and structural complexities of the brain. These atlases not only pave the way for precision treatments but also deepen our understanding of neurological disorders and their underlying mechanisms.

 Moreover, the tools and insights generated by the BRAIN Initiative have led to major advancements in our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. By identifying cellular mechanisms associated with these diseases, we are moving closer to developing targeted interventions that could potentially halt or slow disease progression.

 However, proposed funding cuts threaten to undermine the progress made by the BRAIN Initiative and hinder future advancements in neuroscience research. In addition to impacting job opportunities, these cuts could delay critical research projects and limit access to innovative treatments for patients. The loss of continuous funding for initiatives like the BRAIN Initiative not only jeopardizes ongoing research projects but also disrupts the talent pipeline and erodes institutional memory. Without stable funding, researchers may be forced to seek employment elsewhere, leading to a drain of expertise and experience from institutions. This loss of talented individuals not only impacts current projects but also hampers the training and development of future scientists. Additionally, the interruption in funding disrupts the continuity of research efforts, setting back progress and hindering the accumulation of knowledge and expertise within institutions. Moreover, it undermines long-term planning and investment in research and development, impeding innovation and delaying potential breakthroughs in neuroscience and related fields. Overall, the loss of continuous funding not only threatens the immediate viability of research initiatives but also undermines the long-term growth and success of scientific endeavors.

 We urge you to advocate for continued support and robust funding for the BRAIN Initiative. By investing in neuroscience research, we are investing in the health and well-being of our communities and advancing our collective understanding of the human brain.

 Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your continued support for the BRAIN Initiative.




[Your Name]



[Contact information for follow up]






On 11/13/2018 1:13 PM, Kozai, TK (Takashi Daniel Yoshida) wrote:

Dear Colleagues,

It was suggested that I pass this along to for dissemination. I'm not sure if it makes sense to send this to the full GRC community, but please consider passing this along. (I'm also happy to absorb any critiques). I have asked everyone in my lab to submit an RFI.

What you need to know about Phase 2 BRAIN RFI (Request for Information).

The BRAIN Initiative was a 2013 White House initiative to support better understanding the brain. The Budget for the BRAIN Initiative has also expanded with recent bipartisan legislation securing funding to at least 2026 with an operational budget greater than NIBIB. There were some politics involved, but ultimately a decision was made to use the money in phase 1 to largely support brain related proposals that struggled in traditional mechanisms and traditional review panels. These ended up being grants that were engineering based (design driven proposals) as opposed to classical neuroscience hypothesis driven proposals that are funded through traditional mechanisms under NIBIB, NINDS, NIMH, NIA, NIE, etc (eg. parent R01s)

BRAIN Initiative Phase 1 is closing to an end, they the committee/working group is trying to pick a direction for Phase 2. There is considerable internal pushback against continuing to fund technology development and a push for exclusively funding “circuit function” research (ie research that is already funded through traditional mechanisms).

There also remains a major gap between "Technology Development" and "Circuit Function", which is not addressed under current BRAIN Initiative Mechanisms. For example, there is very little "Interface Science" research to help guide/inform technology development.


1)      Neural Interface research is not represented on the working group panel nor the leadership of the BRAIN Initiative. The major representation is made up of neuroscientists despite “The overarching vision of the BRAIN Initiative is best captured by Goal #7 (New Technology)”

2)      Effective increases to pay lines: by removing support for grants that struggle in normal review/study sections (ie technology development), it frees up money. Then, by supporting BRAIN grants that already have standard mechanisms (circuit function parent R01s) through the BRAIN Initiative, it frees up money in the traditional mechanisms (ie parent R01s). This effectively raises the pay line for standard circuit function grants.

Lessons from 2017 GSI

The NIH announced the “Grant Support Index (GSI)” on May 2, 2017 to support new investigators (average age of 1st R01 has shifted from 35 (1980) to 47 (2017)). While I’ve been fortunate to receive my R01 at 32, this is a huge issue. The GSI was designed to help decrease that first R01 age, by capping funding to each investigator at a maximum of 3 R01s. However, the NIH received overwhelming feedback that led to abandoning the GSI on June 17, 2017. This is because graduate students, postdocs, and assistant professors that would benefit from it never responded to RFI/request for feedback, where as STRONG and overwhelming feedback was provided by a few directors and PIs with 5+ R01 equivalents.

Lesson: This is your opportunity to have your voices heard. You don’t have to be a PI or a faculty. You can be a postdoc, student, industry, an artist, or not in the USA. You just need to submit your opinions by Nov 15th 2018.

Here are some talking points that I think are important and within the scope of the BRAIN 2025 roadmap and priorities, but are overlooked missing in current RFAs and funding opportunities:


Tools and Technologies

Circuit Function


Dissemination and Training



Topics that do not do well in traditional NIH mechanisms

1)    1. Technology development

2)    2. Neural Interface Science/Neural Interface Biology: exploring the biological mechanisms that govern Neural Technology Interfaces at a level equivalent to Stroke or TBI.

3)    3. Regulatory Neurotechnology science

a. What makes technology safe

b. What makes technology effective

c. We don’t even know which experiments to carry out to evaluate the above questions. We need research to determine what experiments and metric standards inform safety and effectiveness at both pre-clinical and clinical trial levels