Today marks World Autism Awareness Day, and it was filled with events, meetings, and information campaigns here at the White House, across the Obama Administration, and across the country.
It was fitting that President Obama unveiled a bold new research initiative designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. The BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative will be essential to advancing what we know about the complexities of autism. Originally referenced during the State of the Union, this ambitious new project was launched with approximately $100 million in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, and ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and autism.
As President Obama said today: “We’re still unable to cure diseases like Alzheimer’s or autism, or fully reverse the effects of a stroke. And the most powerful computer in the world isn’t nearly as intuitive as the one we’re born with. So there is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked, and the BRAIN Initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action and better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember. And that knowledge could be -- will be -- transformative.”As with Tom Cole's comment, self-advocates might take exception to the characterization of autism as a "disease."