"Like two halves of the brain": how we're working with the US

President Obama's visit to Brussels is a reminder of how the EU and US can benefit by working together. From ensuring a safer internet for our kids, internet governance, not to mention significant trade and investment negotiations: there are many areas where we work with our American partners in the digital realm. But here's one example of a very concrete piece of research where we are "putting our heads together".

The EU's Human Brain Project is one of our flagship projects for Future and Emerging Technologies. And it nicely complements the US's own "Brain Initiative". The US is developing new technologies to generate brain data leading to a map of the human brain, while the EU is integrating brain data in computer models to simulate the human brain. The data helps build the models and the models help interpret the data. "It seems a natural pairing, almost like the hemispheres of a human brain" – not my words, but how the journal Nature describes how these two ambitious projects fit together.

Last year, during the European Month of the Brain, I pushed for these two initiatives to work together. I am very glad that my call was echoed just recently from the other side of the Atlantic, by US Congressman Chaka Fattah. Understanding the human brain should not only be a scientific priority, it should also be a political one. And I am glad that there is increasing recognition of this fact.

So I very much support on-going discussions between the European Commission, and various counterparts in the US. Working together to help scientists work together. Planning is underway for a first exploratory workshop in Washington DC this November; with a second due over here in Brussels in spring 2015.

But this goes beyond just the EU and US. Brain-related diseases are a global problem; other related initiatives from other parts of the world can also work with us. In fact, the current Human Brain Project consortium already includes research partners beyond Europe: not just the US, but Canada, China and Japan too. International collaboration is in the Human Brain Project DNA! As I said recently, when the Human Brain Project announced it was enlarging yet further, the more brain cells working in this area the better!