The Optical Society (OSA) recently released a statement in support of U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The program, announced yesterday as part of the president’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget proposal, is aimed at helping researchers and scientists find new ways to treat, cure, and possibly even prevent brain disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and autism. If approved by Congress, it would include $100M in investments, with approximately $50M allocated to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, $40M to the National Institutes of Health, and $20M to the National Science Foundation. OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan testified last month before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to call for such federal investments in research and development (R&D) funding.
Rogan released the following statement:
“OSA supports President Obama’s proposed BRAIN Initiative. The future discoveries and applications of this investment will benefit both short and long-term initiatives, including cost-effective medical and health improvements. The field of optics and photonics offers great potential in these areas.
“For example, with the help of NSF funding, researchers at MIT have developed a 3-D ‘light switch’ using an optogenetics technique that manipulates neurons with light. The 3-D tool enables unprecedented precision to activate single neurons at a precise location with a beam of light. The technology may one day help treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and enable the quest to map the circuitry of the brain. Biomedical optics research like this has the potential to change the lives of many, and the U.S. government is poised to advance these technologies through federally-funded programs like the BRAIN initiative.
“The new initiative also aligns with recommendations discussed in a landmark report issued by the National Academy of Sciences discussing the current state of optical sciences and goals for the future – Optics & Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation. OSA is actively collaborating with other professional scientific societies to meet one of the primary goals included in the report – the establishment of a National Photonics Initiative to engage U.S. industry, government and academia in the design and oversight of R&D and related programs that include federal as well as industry funding.
“OSA members have made many contributions to the field of neuroscience and the BRAIN Initiative would provide a much-needed resource for those advancements to continue. OSA provides programs, products and services that support neuroscience research, including this month’s Optics in the Life Sciences Congress, which features a symposium on neurology called ‘Photons Across Medicine,’ organized with the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
“Science and engineering research, whether conducted in the private sector, at a university or within a federal agency or laboratory, requires long-term predictability and a sustained, coordinated effort to produce positive results. It is encouraging to see the president call for sustained federal investments in R&D and OSA looks forward to working with the administration on these issues.”
Uniting more than 180,000 professionals from 175 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit www.osa.org.
SOURCE: The Optical Society