The U.S. government says it is awarding grants through the National Institutes of Health totaling $46 million to projects aimed at mapping the human brain to seek the biological basis of diseases like Alzheimer's and epilepsy.

The NIH has announced fiscal year funding for more than 100 investigators in 15 states and several countries to back the aims of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

The goal of the initiative, launched by President Obama in 2013, is to learn how the brain's neural circuits operate at the cellular level, with hopes for developing therapies for often hard-to-treat disorders of the brain.

"The human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins.

"We've only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works -- or, unfortunately, doesn't quite work when disorders and disease occur," he said.

The BRAIN initiative seeks to help researchers gain fundamental insights into the causes and possible treatments of a number of brain disorders including Alzheimer's, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.

In addition to the NIH grants, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have also provided funding, with a total of $110 million for fiscal year 2014.

Private institutions such as General Electric and Google were also coming on board by "aligning" $270 million of their existing neuroscience research with the initiative, said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

One of the recipients of NIH grants is the University of California, Berkeley, which will use $7.2 million in funding for projects to develop improved imaging technology in order to look at the brain in greater detail and to assemble a complete database of the many thousands of distinct kinds of neurons in the human brain.

"Our researchers are leading nation-wide efforts to help us understand how the brain works using new, innovative approaches that draw on insights from many disciplines," said vice chancellor for research Graham Fleming.

The NIH says it received more than 600 applications for funding of brain research.

"Some of the projects here have the ability to transform how we study the brain, and new technologies and industries will likely be spawned," Director Collins said.

"There's a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible," he said. "This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey and we're excited about the possibilities."

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