Biomedical Engineering Grad Student Speaks at First Ever White House Conference on the BRAIN Initiative

Daria Nesterovich, graduate student in Biomedical Engineering at the U, whose primary interest is neural engineering applied to neural prosthetics, was asked to be the first speaker at the first White House conference on the BRAIN Initiative. Daria talked about the challenges of treating Parkinson’s disease, and her ongoing research to improve the efficacy of deep brain stimulation in Prof. Dorval’s laboratory.

President Obama launched the Brain Research through Advanced Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative in April of 2013 as a new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

The White House conference served as an opportunity for the Administration to highlight new federal and private sector commitments to the effort, including the FDA and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

The FDA’s goal for the BRAIN Initiative is to enhance the transparency of the regulatory landscape for neurological medical devices. IARPA, which is located within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and invests in high risk, high-payoff research surrounding the difficult challenges faced by the intelligence community, intends to use multidisciplinary approaches to advance understanding of cognition and computation in the brain. IARPA intends to support several applied research programs in this area.

The conference also highlighted the participation of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in the Initiative. Top neuroscientists also have developed a 12-year research strategy for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to achieve the goals of the initiative.

Four agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have together committed more than $110 million to the Initiative in FY 2014.

According to Dorval, “In a few short months, Daria has developed advanced field models of therapeutic targets for deep brain stimulation, and will soon test the stimulation efficacy of novel deep brain technologies. We are fortunate that she chose to attend the U, and confident that she will help lead our graduate students through a wave of renewed interest in brain research spawned by the BRAIN initiative.”

To hear Daria describe these efforts in her own words at the White House, see the video above.

For the full 1.5 hour webcast on YouTube

click here.

For more on the BRAIN Initiative, go to