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To understand mental conditions you need to know the brain

Ask any doctor, scientist or researcher what organ is the most complex in the human body and most will give one answer: the brain. Responsible for regulating bodily functions, memory, coordination, speech and so much more, it's because of its complexity that we still know so little about how it works.

With the help of grant money though, researchers from around the United States hope to unlock the mysteries of the brain once and for all. The grant money, which is part of President Obama's Brain Initiative, will help fund some 50 projects nationwide, totaling more than $3 billion by the end of the 11-year plan.

One such project, run in collaboration with UC Berkeley and the universities of Harvard and Duke, hopes to improve MRI technology to get a better look at the brain and how it works. By redesigning the imaging scanners to provide more detailed pictures of the brain, scientists hope to not only tell how brain cells are working but when they are not functioning properly as well.

As you may already realize, improved scanning technologies will be incredibly beneficial when it comes to research on mental conditions like depression, bi-polar disorder, autism and schizophrenia -- just to name a few. By pinpointing what is going wrong in the brain, scientists will have an easier time finding ways to treat -- and possibly even cure -- conditions down the road.

As was pointed out by the co-chairman of the Brain Initiative advisory committee and the director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, understanding completely how the brain works is not an overnight endeavor and could take a considerable amount of time. This also means that treatments and cures could be just as far off down the road, which is something the entire nation needs to keep in mind.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, "New wave of brain research aims to understanding every function," Erin Allday, Oct. 8, 2014

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