President Obama’s proposal to map the human brain is a bold challenge to use America’s wealth of talent, creativity and spirit of innovation to go places where few have gone before.
His call to action echoed President Kennedy’s 1961 speech to the Congress when he challenged America to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
From that day forward, Kennedy’s vision of America’s future in outer space was not just his but also the nation’s. The public euphoria over the space program, as well as winning the space race with the Soviets, kept an enormously expensive government program fully funded for over forty years. New industries and companies were started and hundreds of thousands of jobs created.
Obama’s “inner” space race to fast track research on how the brain works could make us healthier. Finding cures for devastating neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, for example, could also have economic benefits to the country. A study conducted by the Rand Corporation found that it costs American families and society between $152 and $215 billion per year to care for family members with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another hopeful outcome would be to discover new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Many returning combat veterans suffer from PTSD. Helping them to reintegrate them into civilian life as healthy and productive members of society is the right moral choice, as well as good economics. As the war in Afghanistan winds down, the number of returning veterans suffering for PTSD is likely to rise. New and better treatment techniques for PTSD could also reduce the burden on the already stretched healthcare system and to taxpayers.
President Obama has proposed to America an exciting journey. He shared a view of the future when one day we might have cures for Alzheimer’s, PTSD and other yet unknown discoveries, and be the global leader in neurological science. Which will also grow industries and create jobs. And like a good leader, he gave us his strategic vision and asked us to work with him to develop a strategy.
I hope the Congress has the good sense to fund the President’s request for start up funds. They only need to look at the ROI created by the space program to know that this is a good investment in America’s future.