Decade of the Brain

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The Decade of the Brain was a designation for 1990–1999 by U.S. president George H. W. Bush as part of a larger effort involving the Library of Congress and the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health "to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research".

The interagency initiative was conducted through a variety of activities including publications and programs aimed at introducing members of Congress, their staffs, and the general public to cutting-edge research on the human brain and encouraging public dialog on the ethical, philosophical, and humanistic implications of these discoveries.[1]


During the 1980s, a renewed interest in the localization of neural phenomena to distinct anatomical regions of the brain led to a rapid uptick in more direct study of the brain and its psychological implications.[2] In 1980, the Society for Neuroscience founded a committee dedicated to lobbying directly with the United States Congress for increased neuroscience funding, as well as encouraging members of the society to contact their own representatives. This group, alongside the National Committee for Research in Neurological and Communicative Disorders, the National Science Foundation’s Interagency Working Group in Neuroscience, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Inter-Society Council for Biology and Medicine, met with legislators in Washington D.C. throughout the 1980s in order to educate them about the importance of neuroscience research and advocate for fiscal appropriations.[3]

In 1987, the National Committee for Research in Neurological and Communicative Disorders collaborated with an National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke advisory council to propose a large-scale attempt to build on recent advances in order to further research and clinical development in neuroscience. This proposal to designate the decade, beginning January 1990, as the "Decade of the Brain", was sponsored by Representative Silvio O. Conte, and passed by the United States Congress in a joint resolution on March 8, 1989. A formal proclamation was thereafter issued by then President of the United States George H. W. Bush on July 18, 1990.[1][4]

Publicity and popularization efforts[edit]

Responding to the Presidential mandate, professional organizations began to support the effort via further promulgation of Decade of the Brain materials, and Decade of the Brain lectures became commonplace at annual meetings of prominent scientific communities.[examples needed] Nevertheless, in the early years of the decade, the neuroscience community was concerned that their efforts would not lead to an increase in funding of neuroscience research.[citation needed] David J. Mahoney, at the time the Chairman of the Charles A. Dana Foundation for brain research, arranged a gathering of influential neuroscientists in Cold Spring Harbor in 1992 to discuss ways to improve the Decade of the Brain movement. The meeting resulted in the signing by 60 scientists of a formal Declaration of ten research goals to be accomplished by the end of the decade, as well as personal commitments made by those scientists to speak to the public about their research using appropriate lay language.[4] The Dana Foundation also sponsored the publication of newspapers, newsletters, journals, and other outlets to convey neuroscience research, alongside $34 million in research grants for brain research, and the founding of Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to promote public interest in neuroscience.[4]

Global adoption[edit]

The United States' neuroscience community's publication of Decade of the Brain led international communities to adopt the movement as well. The Government of Japan invested $125 million into neuroscience research in 1997, leading to the development of the Brain Science Institute. The Government of India founded the National Brain Research Centre during the same year. In 1998, the Chinese Institute of Neuroscience was founded.[5]


During the time period of the Decade of the Brain, the field of neuroscience made rapid gains and in several important ways rose to the forefront of both scientific and public interest. American neurologist Lewis P. Rowland stated:

As a public relations gambit, the Decade was a success. As a way of engaging scientists, legislators, and leaders of voluntary agencies, it was a success. As an education program it successfully mirrored the wonderful scientific and technological advances. As part of the preparation for the bipartisan doubling of the neuroscience budget, the Decade was a clear success.We cannot be certain the Decade had anything to do with these advances, which might well have come without the public hue, but the advances and the education marched together.[4]

Several scientific accomplishments occurred during the Decade of the Brain Among them are:

Society also benefited from the Decade, through major cash infusions into early childhood development programs. Due to the funding of research into the physiological impact on the brain of children's early experiences, many states in the US began a great push for pre-school education. Today, almost 20 years later, most children in the US are enrolled in these types of programs.[7]

The Decade of the Brain also inspired the offshoot project, the Decade of the Mind.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jones, Edward G.; Mendell, Lorne M. (April 30, 1999). "Assessing the Decade of the Brain". Science. 284 (5415): 739. Bibcode:1999Sci...284..739J. doi:10.1126/science.284.5415.739. PMID 10336393. S2CID 13261978.
  2. ^ Danziger, Kurt (2008). Marking the mind : a history of memory. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521726412. OCLC 227031832.
  3. ^ "Society for Neuroscience". Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  4. ^ a b c d (U.S.), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2003). NINDS at 50: an incomplete history celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Demos Medical Pub. ISBN 9781417552139. OCLC 56910606.
  5. ^ Tandon, P N (2000). "The decade of the brain: a brief review". Neurology India. 48 (3): 199–207. PMID 11025621.
  6. ^ "A Decade after The Decade of the Brain: Compilation". Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  7. ^ Pollock, Nicolas. "George H. W. Bush's Decade of the Brain". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  8. ^ Sullivan, Jacqueline A. (2014). "Is the Next Frontier in Neuroscience a 'Decade of the Mind'?". Brain Theory. Palgrave Macmillan, London. pp. 45–67. doi:10.1057/9780230369580_4. ISBN 978-1-349-35057-5. S2CID 13299466.

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