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  • Big Bucks to Brain Research, Technology Advancement

Oct 2014
Karen A. Newman, Group Publisher,

Both the photonics industry and brain research stand to gain from financial awards and commitments made last month in Washington.

The NIH announced $46 million in initial awards in the BRAIN Initiative, a project the White House unveiled in April 2013. More than 100 investigators from several countries will use the funds to develop tools and technologies to better understand neural circuit function and to capture the brain in action. Among the 58 projects funded in this round are a wearable scanner to image the human brain in motion and using lasers to guide nerve cell firing.

“We are at a critical juncture for brain research, and these audacious projects are from some of the brightest researchers in neuroscience collaborating with physicists and engineers,” said Dr. Story Landis, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The NIH is one of four federal agencies that committed more than $110 million to the initiative for fiscal 2014.

In conjunction with the BRAIN Initiative conference in September, the National Photonics Initiative launched its Photonics Industry Neuroscience Group. Members committed to investing some $30 million in existing and future research over the next three years.

“The NPI industry group is truly the first of its kind – a multidisciplinary industry consortium focused on developing new optics and photonics technologies to help achieve the president’s goals for the BRAIN Initiative,” said NPI Steering Committee Chairman Tom Baer. For more information about the NPI neuroscience group, visit

Multiphoton microscopy is one growing technology making its way deeper into the biomedical research mainstream, especially in neuroscience. In our cover story, contributing editor Gary Boas reports that greater speed and penetration depth are allowing a new look at how the brain processes information. The feature begins on page 21.

Brain research is probed a bit more in a feature by Dr. Nigel Gallaher, Darryl McCoy and Marco Arrigoni, of Coherent, beginning on page 24. In “Optogenetics Advances Ultrafast Lasers,” the authors report that the development of genetically encoded fluorescent probes is creating a need for tailored laser sources.

Also in this issue, Mark Clymer of Datacolor Inc. and Dr. Eduardo Rosa-Molinar of the University of Puerto Rico call for the establishment of a standard allowing microscopists to verify and reproduce results. The article, “Color Management Helps Microscopy Show its True Colors,” begins on page 28. And in “Lessons Learned in Biophotonic Systems Design,” Dr. Giacomo Vacca of Kinetic River Corp. explains how the design of complex biophotonic systems can be simplified by using new multiparametric modeling tools.

Enjoy the issue.

A discipline that combines optics and genetics to enable the use of light to stimulate and control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, which have been genetically modified to respond to light. Only the cells that have been modified to include light-sensitive proteins will be under control of the light. The ability to selectively target cells gives researchers precise control. Using light to control the excitation, inhibition and signaling pathways of specific cells or groups of cells...
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