Ethical Issues in Brain Research
BRAIN Cell Census Consortium Network
NIH Funding for Health Care Technology
2017 Clinical and Translational Neuroscience Workshop
IHSI Launches Brain Bee Competition
This month we update you on several upcoming neuroscience events and funding opportunities. Please visit the clinical and translational neuroscience section of the IHSI website for the latest news and information.
As always, if you have an item to share with the neuroscience community at Illinois, we would love to include it here. Email Gillian Cooke, IHSI research development specialist, with your item.
Ethical Implications of Advancement | BRAIN Initiative Funding
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, will show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. It is expected that the application of these new tools and technologies will ultimately lead to new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders.
Although ethical issues that are common to other areas of biomedical science also impact brain research, there are special ethical considerations unique to brain research. Considering that the brain gives rise to consciousness, our innermost thoughts, and our most basic human needs, it comes as no surprise that mechanistic studies of the brain have revealed novel social and ethical questions. With respect to research supported by the BRAIN Initiative, it has already become clear there are additional ethical issues in areas such as brain imaging and modulation, data privacy, informed consent, and a host of additional opportunities that warrant focused attention.
These critical issues should be considered through thoughtful discussion and empirical research. Specifically, the BRAIN 2025 report describes the importance of “Support for data-driven research to inform ethical issues arising from BRAIN Initiative research, ideally with integrated activities between ethicists and neuroscientists.” In addition, feedback solicited through a recent BRAIN Neuroethics Request for Information (RFI) (NOT-MH-16-014) underscores that the broader public and scientists alike endorse that scientific advances and technology development are best served by thoughtful consideration of potential ethical issues.
While there is a plethora of ethical topics that might be prime for leveraging an integrated research approach, input from the Neuroethics Workgroup of the BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group and feedback from the BRAIN RFI on Neuroethics has been instrumental in helping understand priority areas of ethics best-suited for this FOA. Specifically, applications that focus on the following areas that are rapidly becoming highly relevant for BRAIN Initiative supported efforts would be considered of particular interest to the goals of this FOA:
- Studies focused on ethical issues associated with advances in brain stimulation, brain-computer interfaces, etc., such as: effects on personal identity, agency, and perception of normality.
- Studies that explore the evolving richness of collected human neural data and considerations such as data ownership, access, privacy, and unintended uses.
- Studies that consider the ethical implications of evolving neuromodulation and neuroimaging technologies, specifically as they pertain to the infrastructure of these technologies (activation and monitoring of devices, long-term maintenance, data security, intended and unintended use of these new technologies).
- The ethical implications of access to a use of emerging neurotechnologies and their relationship to informed consent (participant perspective on the consent process, consent with special populations).
- Ethical issues unique to research that leverages opportunities with ex vivo human brain tissue.
All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to consult the Scientific/Research Contacts to discuss the alignment of their proposed work with the FOA goals.
Letter of intent is due December 30, 2016. Application is due January 30, 2017. Visit grants.gov for complete program guidelines and application procedures.
Comprehensive Center on Mouse Brain Cell Atlas | BRAIN Initiative Funding
The mammalian brain contains an astronomical number of cells. There are an estimated 1.13 x 10^8 cells in the mouse brain and an estimated 1.7 x 10^11 cells in the human brain, with each neuron making thousands of synapses with other cells. Since the early work of Ramón y Cajal, beginning with the elegant staining of individual neurons in the brain using the Golgi method, brain cell types have been increasingly defined by their location, morphology, connectivity, neurotransmitter type, physiology, and most recently, their transcriptional profile. Cataloging brain cell types and their connectivity is a prerequisite to understanding how they are organized in circuits, and how they change in brain disorders. In addition, a detailed understanding of cell classes and subclasses will enable the development of novel tools that allow researchers to target specific cell types and manipulate circuits for further study. However, there is not yet a consensus on what a brain cell type is, since a variety of factors including experience, cell interaction, and neuromodulators can diversify the molecular, electrical, and structural properties of similar cells, and cell phenotypes may change over time. Nonetheless, there is general agreement that cell types can be defined provisionally by invariant and generally intrinsic properties, and that this classification can provide a good starting point for a census.
The BRAIN Initiative cell census program awarded 10 grants in September, 2014, under RFA-MH-14-215, forming the BRAIN Cell Census Consortium (BICCC) to pilot cell classification strategies for a comprehensive brain cell census. The purpose of these awards were to test various methods in multiple brain regions from different organisms to determine whether approaches were mature enough to allow for the generation of large-scale and comprehensive cell census in the mammalian brain. Advances such as single cell transcriptional profiling, anatomical mapping at cellular resolution, and other approaches have proven ultimately to be powerful and scalable. At this time, the BRAIN initiative cell census program is looking to establish the BRAIN Cell Census Consortium Network (BICCN) for a systematic generation of reference cell census data and relevant tools. This FOA and the companion announcements intend to advance the BRAIN Initiative cell census efforts by establishing a network of projects that work cooperatively to achieve the overall goal to understand cell types in mammalian brains. The overarching goals of the BICCN are to ultimately:
- Generate a comprehensive 3D common reference mouse brain cell atlas that integrates molecular, anatomical, and physiological annotations of brain cell types; and
- Generate reference brain cell atlases from postmortem healthy adult human and/or non-human primate brain samples.
The BICCN will be composed of a group of Centers and Collaboratories supported via four companion FOAs: Comprehensive (U19) Center(s) supported via RFA-MH-17-225, the FOA being described here, that will focus on building up a comprehensive mouse brain cell atlas; Specialized (U01) Collaboratories via RFA-MH-17-230 that will contribute cell census data for endpoints in the mouse brain not otherwise covered in the U19 Center(s); Specialized (U01) Collaboratories via RFA-MH-17-210 that will begin to collect cell census data from human or non-human primate brains; and finally, the U24 BRAIN Cell Data Center (BCDC) via RFA-MH-17-215 that will integrate, visualize, and disseminate the cell census data generated by the U19 and U01 Centers and Collaboratories as well as create a brain cell knowledge base. The NIH expects that the BICCN will operate as a cooperative network to promote collaboration and coordination with any research entities that have similar goals. It is expected that funded projects in the BICCN will work together to achieve the overall goals. This will include regular meetings and other coordinated activities within the BICCN as well as in the BRAIN Initiative more broadly. Thus the BICCN will leverage existing atlases and common coordinate systems to facilitate collaborative efforts for the data annotation and 3D spatial mapping.
Letter of intent is due December 23, 2016. Application is due January 23, 2017. For more information see the funding opportunity.
NIH | Use of Technology to Enhance Patient Outcomes and Prevent Illness
A wide range of technological approaches to enhance public health for the purpose of reaching hard-to-serve, difficult-to-reach populations have been implemented and studied. Telehealth or telemedicine (i.e., remote healthcare services, clinical or non-clinical, that deliver, diagnose, consult, treat, transfer, and serve to educate the health community, including providing provider training and medical education) have been prevalent in supporting clinical care. To date, most of the technology-focused research that exists is understood in terms of the type, nature, and delivery of healthcare.
Though research studies have incorporated technology in a range of ways, a missing component to the research is attention to patient outcomes. Some researchers have successfully wedded healthcare delivery to patient outcomes, such as implementing monitoring systems in populations with chronic conditions, as well as those at risk of injury (e.g., fall prevention). Others have developed useful robotic devices to assist individuals with limited mobility, or to help manage medication delivery and adherence. Researchers have also utilized clinical trials to draw connections between increased telehealth usage, in the form of home monitoring of patient conditions and decreased mortality. And the research field has shown great enthusiasm for mHealth interventions, though with limited success to-date.
This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) seeks to draw direct linkage between technology and patients. Technological tools provide great prospective avenues to address patient needs. Providers regularly use email, web-based message boards, and other electronic means to communicate with patients, order and manage patient prescriptions, and facilitate many other health care needs. Clinicians increasingly indicate this is their preferred way of serving patients, and that they are more accessible to their patients through these means. Applications submitted to this FOA must incorporate patient outcomes into the research studies proposed.
Research projects of interest include those that seek to:
- Address the practical utility of one or multiple forms of technology (e.g., web-based tools, mHealth, smart devices, decision support systems, digital assessment tools, robotics, and other technologies) as they relate to assessment; diagnosis; intervention development and implementation; and patient outcomes.
- Identify specific patient outcomes expected to improve from technological approaches.
- Develop specific tools and interventions that show enhanced benefits for patients in a wide range of environments, including clinical settings, and the home and community.
- Assess and/or develop tailored interventions to patient populations (e.g. socioeconomic, age, gender, and race/ethnic subgroups, or those with prior exposure to the technology).
- Utilize eHealth (and mHealth) technologies that promote patient-provider engagement, and other forms of social support for individuals with similar conditions/illnesses/diagnoses.
Letter of intent is not applicable. Application is due Februrary 16, 2017, and quarterly until January 2020 (standard R21 application dates). For more information, see the funding opportunity.
2017 IHSI Clinical & Translational Neuroscience Workshop | SAVE THE DATE
The second annual IHSI Clinical & Translational Neuroscience Workshop will take place on Friday, February 17, 2017, at The Forum at Carle's Pollard Auditorium in Urbana. The conference sessions will focus on these themes: sleep, rehabilitative and restorative neuroscience, and neurological disease. All faculty, staff, clinicians, postdocs, and students are invited to take part.
Mark your calendar now, and watch from more details—including registration—coming soon.
EDUCATION & ENGAGEMENT
Local Brain Bee Competition Launching | FEBRUARY 4, 2017
The International Brain Bee (IBB) is a neuroscience competition for teenagers ages 14 to 18. Its purpose is to motivate young men and women to learn about the human brain, and to inspire them to enter careers in the basic and clinical brain sciences. The world needs future clinicians and researchers to treat and find cures for more than 1000 neurological and psychological disorders.
Dr. Norbert Myslinski (Department of Neural and Pain Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore) founded the Brain Bee in 1998 with 12 local chapters. It has now grown to more than 170 chapters in more than 40 world regions and six continents. Students advance through three tiers of competition, from local chapter to regional and eventually to the world championship competition. Locations for the world championship have included Australia, Italy, South Africa, the United States, Canada, Austria, and Denmark.
Approximately 30,000 students compete annually. Participants prepare for the competition by studying books that are freely downloadable from the internet in 20 different languages. Topics include brain functions such as sensations, intelligence, emotions, movement, and consciousness, and brain dysfunctions such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and addictions, as well as research techniques and medical technology. The competition format is basically live, oral question and answer, but at higher tiers may also involve neuroanatomy laboratory tests with human brains, neurohistology tests with microscopes, patient diagnosis with actors, and MRI brain imaging analysis.
IHSI at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will host the first Brain Bee competition in central Illinois on Saturday, February 4, 2017, at the Champaign Public Library. We challenge local high school students to compete. Being part of the Brain Bee is fun, easy, and rewarding.
Be on the lookout for updates and registration information on the IHSI website.
IMPORTANT DATES AND DEADLINES
- Mayo Clinic SURF Pre-Selection: December 1, 2016
- McKnight Technology Awards Letter of Intent: December 5, 2016
- Mouse Brain Cell Atlas Letter of Intent: December 23, 2016
- Ethical Implications Letter of Intent: December 30, 2016
- University of Illinois chapter Brain Bee Competition: February 4, 2017
- Technology to Enhance Patient Outcomes Application: February 16, 2017
- IHSI Neuroscience Workshop: February 17, 2017
Email Gillian Cooke, IHSI research development specialist, with a calendar item or announcement to share with the clinical and translational neuroscience community at Illinois.