BRAIN reissues funding opportunity for developing theories, models and methods for analysis of complex neuroscience data

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Mouse brain slice with bright green neurons.

Applications for this funding opportunity are due on December 15, 2022, with subsequent application due dates on September 12, 2023, and September 12, 2024, and require a Plan for Enhancing Diverse Perspectives (PEDP). 

The BRAIN Initiative: Theories, Models and Methods for Analysis of Complex Data from the Brain (TMM) [RFA-DA-23-039] funding opportunity announcement (FOA) solicits a broad span of applications in this space to infer general principles of brain function as well as generate new testable hypotheses to design/drive new experiments. It is expected that tools developed under this FOA will be made widely available to the neuroscience research community for their use and modification. This FOA is part of a family of funding opportunities associated with “Integrated and Quantitative Approaches to Understanding Circuits” to understand the circuit basis of behavior using cutting-edge approaches across a variety of species. Examples of projects funded under previous iterations of this FOA can be found here

The development and maturation of experimental tools to study the brain has led to unprecedented volumes of data at all levels of investigation in neuroscience from genomic information to behavioral data. Extracting meaning from these large datasets requires computational and theoretical tools that match the scale of data being generated as well as the ability to integrate information across rich datasets. The goals of this FOA align with one of the priority areas laid out in the BRAIN 2025 Report which recognized that “Theory, modeling and statistics will be essential to understanding the brain.” 

For this reissue, priority will be given to the development of:  

  • Analytical and computational tools to facilitate new theory development as well as tools to integrate existing (especially competing) theories, and conceptual frameworks. 

  • Multiscale/Multiphysics models incorporating biologically-inspired dynamical representations of neurons mechanistically linking to behavioral processes. 

  • Platforms incorporating machine-driven knowledge integration of competing theories for the discovery of foundational theories of the brain. 

Applicants are required to explicitly describe the use case for their proposed analytical tool and describe how their tools can be generalized to be used in other behavior and functional circuits in the brain.  All applicants are strongly encouraged to outline strategies and metrics for the collaborating end user(s) to evaluate the credibility of the proposed theories, models, and methods; and how these analytical tools will address the question(s) of interest within the intended domain.  

Projects are encouraged to utilize the NIHBRAINWORKS platform (that organizes, integrates, and represents nuanced knowledge contained within the growing body of the scientific literature) to assist in the development of theories, models and methods for understanding brain circuits from the cellular and sub-second resolution to behavior. 

Plan for Enhancing Diverse Perspectives 

This FOA also requires a Plan for Enhancing Diverse Perspectives (PEDP). To support the best science, the NIH BRAIN Initiative encourages inclusivity in research. Examples of structures that promote diverse perspectives include but are not limited to: 

  • Transdisciplinary research projects and collaborations among neuroscientists and researchers from fields such as computational biology, physics, engineering, mathematics, computer and data sciences, as well as bioethics. 

  • Engagement from different types of institutions and organizations (e.g., research-intensive, undergraduate-focused, minority-serving, community-based). 

  • Individual applications and partnerships that enhance geographic and regional heterogeneity. 

  • Investigators and teams composed of researchers at different career stages. 

  • Participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including groups historically underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce (see NOT-OD-20-031), such as underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, those with disabilities, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women. 

  • Project-based opportunities to enhance the research environment to benefit early- and mid-career investigators. 

More information and guidance on the PEDP can be found here.  

The next application due date is December 15, 2022. For more information, please review the full FOA RFA-DA-23-039.