NeuroTech:
Neuroscience at NSF
D. H. Whalen
Program Director, Cognitive
Neuroscience
Current NSF Neuroscience
• Across virtually all directorates.
• About $60 million in FY06.
– Difficult to assess, because ...
Current Reassessment
• Neuroscience at NSF is being examined
Foundation-wide.
• Objective: Redefine NSF’s mission in this
...
Workshop 1: July 2006
• “Grand Challenges of Mind and Brain.”
• Four member Steering Committee.
– Sheila Blumstein (chair)...
“Grand Challenge” Areas
• Adaptive Plasticity.
• Conflict and Cooperation.
• Spatial Knowledge.
• Time.
• Language.
• Caus...
“Grand Challenge” Tools
• Human Brain Circuitry.
– Imaging, of course.
– Also specifically mentions nonhuman species.
• Ma...
Workshop 2: August 2006
• Primarily MPS.
– “Brain Science as a Mutual Opportunity for the
Physical and Mathematical Scienc...
Three Broad Areas
• A Shift in the Scope and Scale of
Experimental Investigations.
– Recordings from multiple events and s...
Instrumentation and Measurement
• Functional measurements in neurons and
circuits.
• Labeling in neurons and circuits.
• C...
Data Analysis, Statistical Modeling
and Informatics.
• Multidisciplinary input to new measurement
techniques.
• Methods to...
Conceptual and Theoretical
Approaches
• Fundamental Role of Mathematics.
• Dynamical Systems.
• Statistical Physics/Large ...
Brain-Like Devices and Systems
• Analog Approaches.
• Stochastic Semiconductor Circuits.
• Neural Coding and Functional Bi...
Now, Four Broad Areas
• Instrumentation and Measurement.
• Data Analysis, Statistical Modeling, and
Informatics.
• Concept...
Workshop 3: March 2007
• The workshop was organized around seven
interdisciplinary themes, and led by:
• Chris Wood, Vice ...
Workshop 3: March 2007
• The workshop was organized around seven
interdisciplinary themes, and led by:
• Chris Wood, Vice ...
SBE in this Workshop
• Main working group of interest to SBE is
Raichle’s/Blumstein’s:
• “Cognitive Systems: Neural Bases ...
Various Promising Topics
• Navigation and Spatial Cognition.
• Speech Perception.
• Face Recognition.
• Reading.
• Percept...
The Big Question
• How does the brain create thought and
behavior?
• Despite many interesting findings, the
fundamentals a...
The Specific Big Question
• As Dr. Bement asked at the workshop,
how does consciousness arise?
• Nancy Kanwisher, our pres...
SBE: Cognitive Neuroscience
• Most of the SBE-specific topics were in cognitive
neuroscience, but not necessarily the Cogn...
Other Potential Areas
• Neural imaging of voting decisions.
• Culturally-specific patterns of perception.
• MRI lie detect...
Support from Other Programs
• Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation
• Data-Net
• Community-based Data Interoperability
Ne...
Challenges
• Enormous area, dominated by biology.
• Differentiating NSF from NIH.
• Choosing right level of problem within...
Opportunities
• Additional funds may be forthcoming.
• Partnering with European funders.
• New tools and techniques may tr...
Thank you.
NeuroTech: Neuroscience at NSF
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NeuroTech: Neuroscience at NSF

  1. 1. NeuroTech: Neuroscience at NSF D. H. Whalen Program Director, Cognitive Neuroscience
  2. 2. Current NSF Neuroscience • Across virtually all directorates. • About $60 million in FY06. – Difficult to assess, because neuroscience is not coded directly. – Depends on your definition as well, of course. – Even this number does not include centers. • Still not seen as a priority despite this rather large outlay.
  3. 3. Current Reassessment • Neuroscience at NSF is being examined Foundation-wide. • Objective: Redefine NSF’s mission in this area. – Takes NIH into account. – Input from most directorates. • Primary tools: three workshops.
  4. 4. Workshop 1: July 2006 • “Grand Challenges of Mind and Brain.” • Four member Steering Committee. – Sheila Blumstein (chair). – Thomas Carew. – Nancy Kanwisher. – Terry Sejnowski. • Twelve more in Workshop Panel. • Report available on CogNeuro web page.
  5. 5. “Grand Challenge” Areas • Adaptive Plasticity. • Conflict and Cooperation. • Spatial Knowledge. • Time. • Language. • Causal Understanding.
  6. 6. “Grand Challenge” Tools • Human Brain Circuitry. – Imaging, of course. – Also specifically mentions nonhuman species. • Mathematical Innovations. – Non-linear varieties in particular. • Information Databases. • Molecular Tools. • Cyberinfrastructure.
  7. 7. Workshop 2: August 2006 • Primarily MPS. – “Brain Science as a Mutual Opportunity for the Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Computer Science, and Engineering.” – Somewhat less grand. • Chaired by Chris Wood (Santa Fe Inst.). • Thirteen other participants. • Report available on CogNeuro website.
  8. 8. Three Broad Areas • A Shift in the Scope and Scale of Experimental Investigations. – Recordings from multiple events and sites. • A Shift in the Character of Theoretical Understanding. – Simultaneously bottom-up and top-down. • A Shift in How Knowledge Can Be Used. – Greater ability to model complex systems. – More potential for direct brain/machine links.
  9. 9. Instrumentation and Measurement • Functional measurements in neurons and circuits. • Labeling in neurons and circuits. • Controlling activity in neurons and circuits. • The importance of model organisms.
  10. 10. Data Analysis, Statistical Modeling and Informatics. • Multidisciplinary input to new measurement techniques. • Methods to integrate Diverse Data Sources. • Statistics, Signal Processing and Machine Learning. • New Tools for Control Theory. • Analyzing Multiple Levels and Time Scales. • Inferring Causality in Neural Systems. • New Approaches to Data Management/Sharing.
  11. 11. Conceptual and Theoretical Approaches • Fundamental Role of Mathematics. • Dynamical Systems. • Statistical Physics/Large Degrees of Freedom. • Engineering Approaches. • Machine Learning Tools. • Large-Scale Simulations.
  12. 12. Brain-Like Devices and Systems • Analog Approaches. • Stochastic Semiconductor Circuits. • Neural Coding and Functional Biomimetic Systems. • Brain-Like Robots. • Biocompatible Neural Interfaces.
  13. 13. Now, Four Broad Areas • Instrumentation and Measurement. • Data Analysis, Statistical Modeling, and Informatics. • Conceptual and Theoretical Approaches. • Building Brain-Like Devices and Systems.
  14. 14. Workshop 3: March 2007 • The workshop was organized around seven interdisciplinary themes, and led by: • Chris Wood, Vice President, Santa Fe Institute. • Ted Berger, Dept of Biomedical Engineering, USC. • Emery Brown, Dept of Brain/Cognitive Sciences, MIT. • Eve Marder, Dept of Biology, Brandeis University. • Tom Mitchell, Machine Learning, Carnegie Mellon U. • Partha Mitra, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. • Marcus Raichle, Dept of Radiology, Washington U. • Jonathan Sweedler, Dept of Chemistry, U. of Illinois.
  15. 15. Workshop 3: March 2007 • The workshop was organized around seven interdisciplinary themes, and led by: • Chris Wood, Vice President, Santa Fe Institute. • Ted Berger, Dept of Biomedical Engineering, USC. • Emery Brown, Dept of Brain/Cognitive Sciences, MIT. • Eve Marder, Dept of Biology, Brandeis University. • Tom Mitchell, Machine Learning, Carnegie Mellon U. • Partha Mitra, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. • Sheila Blumstein, Dept of Linguistics, Brown U. • Jonathan Sweedler, Dept of Chemistry, U. of Illinois.
  16. 16. SBE in this Workshop • Main working group of interest to SBE is Raichle’s/Blumstein’s: • “Cognitive Systems: Neural Bases of Thought and Behavior.” • Meant to convey the extensive interaction of systems seen in every cognitive domain. • Many other relevant topics in other working groups.
  17. 17. Various Promising Topics • Navigation and Spatial Cognition. • Speech Perception. • Face Recognition. • Reading. • Perception and Action. • Number Skills. • Tools for the Future.
  18. 18. The Big Question • How does the brain create thought and behavior? • Despite many interesting findings, the fundamentals are still not known. • Converging techniques, in imaging and in theory (e.g., complexity), are making new advances possible.
  19. 19. The Specific Big Question • As Dr. Bement asked at the workshop, how does consciousness arise? • Nancy Kanwisher, our presenter, pointed out that this is still too difficult a question to answer directly. • However, we have interesting components that have been located, such as face perception with and without awareness.
  20. 20. SBE: Cognitive Neuroscience • Most of the SBE-specific topics were in cognitive neuroscience, but not necessarily the Cognitive Neuroscience program: – Perception, Action and Cognition – Linguistics – Social Psychology – Economics – Decision, Risk and Management Sciences – Developmental and Learning Sciences – Cultural Anthropology – Physical Anthropology – Human Origins (HOMINID)
  21. 21. Other Potential Areas • Neural imaging of voting decisions. • Culturally-specific patterns of perception. • MRI lie detectors? • New statistical tools. • Neural study of ethics decisions. • Basic questions posed by diseases (“nature’s knock-out experiments”).
  22. 22. Support from Other Programs • Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation • Data-Net • Community-based Data Interoperability Networks (INTEROP) • Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS) (soon)
  23. 23. Challenges • Enormous area, dominated by biology. • Differentiating NSF from NIH. • Choosing right level of problem within SBE parameters. • International collaboration (at least, getting the word out, if not providing new mechanisms).
  24. 24. Opportunities • Additional funds may be forthcoming. • Partnering with European funders. • New tools and techniques may truly make future advances happen at a currently unimaginable pace. • 2010’s: Decade of the Mind.
  25. 25. Thank you.
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