Creating Biomedical Technologies to Improve Health

NIH BRAIN Initiative announces new round of opportunities for non-invasive imaging

Teams whose research aligns with noninvasive human brain imaging technologies may apply for an additional round of funding, either for proof-of-concept projects (R01), or cooperative agreements (U01) aimed at achieving full development of entirely new or next-generation, noninvasive human brain imaging tools and methods.

Reissuance of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA)
brain illustration

NIH has reissued the FOAs for a subsequent round of applications in this research area, with applications due in Dec. 20, 2017. Following are the Request for Applications notices

This funding opportunity announcement (FOA), in support of the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, aims to support early stage development of entirely new and novel noninvasive human brain imaging technologies and methods that will lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the human brain. The FOA solicits unusually bold and potentially transformative approaches and supports small-scale, proof-of-concept development based on exceptionally innovative, original and/or unconventional concepts.

This funding opportunity announcement (FOA), in support of the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, aims to support full development of entirely new or next generation noninvasive human brain imaging tools and methods that will lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the human brain. The FOA seeks innovative applications that are ready for full-scale development of breakthrough technologies with the intention of delivering working tools within the timeframe of the BRAIN Initiative (“BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision,” This FOA represents the second stage of the tool/technology development effort that started with RFA-MH-14-217 and RFA-MH-15-200.

Recent awards to nine projects part of fourth round of BRAIN Initiative funding

In September 2017, the NIH BRAIN Initiative issued awards that represent nearly $4.38 million over two years in early research support and an additional $39.7 million over five years to researchers developing non-invasive imaging tools to study the human brain. The new grants include five early stage grants, and four grants to continue development of techniques for imaging the human brain and its circuits, neuronal ensembles, function and connectivity. Each of the nine awards is administered by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). The new awards are part of the fourth round of grants in the NIH BRAIN Initiative program.

Guoying Liu, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB program in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and co-leader of the Human Neurotechnology component of NIH BRAIN Initiative applauded the current awardees, saying, “The successful grant applications passed a high bar set by the BRAIN Initiative in this critical research area of human neurotechnology. Each project is based on novel concepts, representing the kinds of tools we need for the future of non-invasive imaging for the neuroscience community.”

The early stage research project awards listed below, are based on two years of support, pending available funds.

Maria Angela Franceschini, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital $905,096 to develop a near-infrared spectroscopy system with optical sensors that will be worn and produce high resolution images of the brain, including blood flow functional measurements.

Gianmarco Pinton, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $809,571 to develop a new ultrasound imaging technique that can image microvessels deep within the brain.

Jiangyang Zhang, Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine $897,801 to develop an ultra-high-resolution diffusion magnetic resonance imaging method for imaging gray matter microstructures and connectivity, and to construct a group-average atlas of the hippocampus and temporal cortex.

Craig S. Levin, Ph.D., Stanford University $826,634 to explore concepts for a next-generation positron emission tomography (PET) photon detector that enables unprecedented PET image signal-to-noise ratio and contrast-to-noise ratio, as well as simultaneous PET and MRI measurements for advancing studies of the brain.

Brian K. Rutt, Ph.D., Stanford University $942,000 to develop MRI methods capable of generating maps of neural connections in the brain at microscopic resolution, over the entire living human brain.

The Phase II full development of tools and technology awards listed below, are based on five years of support, pending available funds.

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., University of Minnesota $9.35 million to develop ultrahigh resolution MR imaging at the previously unavailable magnetic field strength of 10.5 Tesla. This technology will push the envelope of MR capability to the next generation, permitting investigation of human brain function and connectivity. It will reach currently unavailable spatial scales, spanning neuronal ensembles composed of few thousand neurons to entire human brain networks, enabling the integration of animal and human studies.

Michael Garwood, Ph.D., University of Minnesota $10.8 million to design, build, and test an open, portable, head-only 1.5 Tesla human MRI magnet system that would allow for non-invasive brain studies with minimal mobility restrictions. The researchers propose a human head-magnet that is the shortest and most lightweight design every built, allowing the body to be completely outside the magnet bore, from the top of shoulders down. The proposed method for MR imaging is radically unique, with reduced size, weight, and power requirements that will enable it to be transported and staged almost anywhere in the world. The design will enable bringing the magnet to the subject rather than the other way around.

David Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley $13.43 million to develop the next-generation microscale human cortex MRI approaches to advance the ability to visualize the structure and function of the human cerebral cortex. The goal is to transform the scientific understanding of circuitry in the human brain and will be used to explore new applications in medical sciences.

Lawrence Wald, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital $6.12 million to design and build the first-ever human brain magnetic particle imaging (MPI) system. This system enables direct detection and monitoring of changes in cerebral blood flow and blood volume, and offers a potential method for imaging the function of the human brain in health and disease with clarity as much as 10-fold higher than existing MRI based methods.

For more information about the NIH BRAIN Initiative, go to