NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

BRAIN Initiative Scientists Share Cutting-Edge Research

Dr. Nita Farahany
Dr. Nita Farahany

More than 2,500 participants gathered for the ninth annual Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative Meeting: Open Science, New Tools on June 12-13. 

The two-day hybrid conference brought together federally funded scientists, staff and leadership, as well as non-federal organizations, researchers interested in joining the BRAIN community, media and the public.

The initiative is a large-scale effort funded by NIH, other government agencies and private organizations to revolutionize understanding of the human brain. A major goal is to encourage researchers and organizations from diverse disciplines to work together in their development and application of innovative technologies for brain research. The annual meetings are an important part of this effort.

The 2023 meeting kicked off with a plenary talk, “The Battle for Your Brain,” which explored legal and ethical issues surrounding neurotechnology and artificial intelligence. Featured speaker Dr. Nita Farahany of Duke University discussed the concept of cognitive liberty, which she defined as the right to self-determination over our brains and mental experiences. She addressed both the right to gain access to information about our own brains and the ability to modify them if we choose—but also a right to mental privacy and freedom of thought.

“I believe cognitive liberty will be most powerful if it guides scientific research rather than serving solely as a rights-based mechanism that might in some ways curtail or limit innovation,” Farahany said.

Dr. Vanessa Ruta
Dr. Vanessa Ruta

The meeting also included a lecture by Dr. Vanessa Ruta of the Rockefeller University on the neural circuitry in fruit flies that is used to understand how neural circuits are adapted over time to drive behavior, and a talk by Dr. Anil Sheth of Baylor College of Medicine on development of new technologies to personalize treatments of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Other presentations covered a diverse range of topics, such as:

  • Cellular atlasing and analysis in human and non-human primate brains
  • Genomic and developmental mechanisms of the octopus brain
  • Functional manipulation of the central nervous system
  • Bioluminescent optogenetics

Both days featured three-minute “flash” talks by trainee award finalists selected from competitive abstract submissions. 

During these quick presentations, the awardees gave overviews of their specific contributions to broader BRAIN projects. Participants included scientists at all levels, from high school, undergraduate and graduate programs to medical and other professional schools and postdoctoral fellows and residents.

screenshot of panel with speaker at podium
The “Introduction to the NIH and BRAIN Ecosystem for Translation” session highlighted programs that support translation of technologies and success stories from scientists who have received NIH funding.

Numerous networking opportunities were also an important component of the meeting. A special session, “BRAIN, Neuroscience and Beyond: Building Our Early Career Community,” involved peer-mentor matching and information sharing about BRAIN funding opportunities for all career stages. In an “Introduction to the NIH and BRAIN Ecosystem for Translation” workshop, scientists shared success stories of receiving NIH funding for their research.

Throughout the meeting, participants were able to interact in person and virtually with speakers, connect with one another, explore posters and chat with presenters about their BRAIN projects and visit exhibits to learn about BRAIN-related organizations. 

Posters, exhibit materials, broadcasts and other resources are online through June 2024 at

Photo Gallery

‘Show Us Your BRAINS’ Winners Named

scientific image of brains cells resembling a line of green, yellow, and cream-colored balloons on strings floating in a black background
Winner in the photo category of ‘Show Us Your BRAINS!’ 2023, first place

Winners of the 2023 Show Us Your BRAINS! Photo and Video Contest were announced June 12 by NIH BRAIN Initiative Director Dr. John Ngai. The popular annual contest showcases artistic, eye-catching images and videos of the brain—many using technologies that were developed with initiative support.

Winning photos are:

First Place: “Dark Commute at 4 a.m.” by Silas Busch, University of Chicago. A confocal image of sparse GCaMP6f-expressing Purkinje cells in mouse cerebellum resembles the industrious contours of pre-dawn commuters.

scientific image of the brain with a globe at center with multi-color explosions popping off the top
Winner in the photo category of ‘Show Us Your BRAINS!’ 2023, second place

Second Place: “Premotor Neurons Controlling the Fruit Fly Leg” by Andrew Cook, Jasper Phelps, Anthony Azevedo, Ellen Lesser, Leila Elabbady, Brandon Pratt, Wei-Chung Allen Lee and John Tuthill, University of Washington and Harvard Medical School. Reconstruction of premotor neurons from a serial-section electron microscopy dataset of the Drosophila female adult nerve cord.

Third Place: “Memory Lanes” by Tyler Ard, University of Southern California Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. A rendering of MRI data—combining cortical surface and hippocampal segmentations from a T1 weighted scan and diffusion tractography.

scientific image of the brain with white gossamer-like circuitry
Winner in the photo category of ‘Show Us Your BRAINS!’ 2023, third place

Winning videos are:

First Place: “Simian symphony: ripple assembles during rest” by Kari Hoffman, Tyler Sloan and Saman Abbaspoor, Vanderbilt University. Related CA1 unit ensembles from macaque wireless Deep Array recordings, sonified by unit and visualized by layer and functional cell type.

Second Place: “Functional Ultrasound Localization Microscopy” by Alexandre Dizeux, Physics for Medicine Paris. Functional ultrasound localization microscopy reveals whole brain vascular changes during neuronal activation up to the micron scale.

Third Place: “Synaptic Balance” by scalable minds (Germany). Reconstruction of inhibitory and excitatory neurons in human cortex from SBEM.

To view all the images and videos, visit:

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