The Obama administration is planning a multiyear research effort to produce an “activity map” that would show in unprecedented detail the workings of the human brain, the most complex organ in the body. It is a breathtaking goal at a time when Washington, hobbled by partisan gridlock and deficit worries, seems unable to launch any major new programs.
This effort — if sufficiently financed — could develop new tools and techniques that would lead to a much deeper understanding of how the brain works. The ultimate aim, probably not reachable for decades, is to answer such fundamental questions as how the brain generates thoughts, dreams, memories, perception and consciousness — and to find ways to intervene and influence such brain activities. It may also be possible to determine how the brain changes over time in response to learning.