Biological Sciences        Page 14

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience


   The FY 1999 Budget Request for the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Subactivity is $100.23 million, an increase of $14.01 million, or 16.2 percent, over the FY 1998 Current Plan of $86.22 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1997
FY 1998
FY 1999
Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Research Projects 84.31 86.22 100.23 14.01 16.2%
TOTAL INTEGRATIVE AND NEUROSCIENCE 84.31 86.22 100.23 14.01 16.2%

   Research supported by the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Subactivity (IBN) seeks to understand the living organism – plant, animal, or microbe – as a unit of biological organization. The integration of component parts into functional systems is important for understanding the development, physiology and behavior of organisms in both laboratory and natural settings. In particular, the application of cellular and subcellular techniques often provides a basic understanding of the development, physiology, and neurobiology of organisms. Answers to questions in developmental biology, physiology, and neuroscience often uncover, in turn, fundamental information about genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms.

   The development and use of a wide diversity of organisms as biological models assist both in identifying unifying principles common to all organisms and in documenting the variety of mechanisms that have evolved in specific organisms. Investigating the causes and consequences of variation among organisms in the expression of various processes leads to an understanding of the pathways and constraints on adaptation and acclimation of organisms to their environment. Of particular interest are the physiological, developmental, and behavioral mechanisms utilized by organisms to survive in environmental extremes of temperature, pressure, salinity, aridity, oxygen availability, light, darkness, acidity and alkalinity.

   Synthetic and analytic approaches to integrative biology often require advanced computational techniques and interdisciplinary perspectives involving other areas of biology, behavioral science, physical science, mathematics, engineering and computer science. Advances in neuroscience are being coupled with computer and engineering technologies to uncover new principles of learning and intelligence in natural and artificial systems. In the age of information, there are increasing demands for readily accessible data and networks by which to share information and knowledge about organisms. For example, databases of identified neurons have been developed for select invertebrate organisms such as fruitflies, and networks of plant scientists have been established to share results through Internet linkages, exchange of students and regular meetings at host laboratories.

   The FY 1999 Budget Request includes an increase of $14.01 million for a total of $100.23 million to provide:

  • Additional funding for research in Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence includes support for Learning and Intelligent Systems to discover and understand fundamental issues of how complex systems learn and make decisions, emphasizing principles of organization, behavior, and function common to artificial networks as well as to animal brains. The increase will also enhance research in computational neuroscience, with New Challenges in Computation that include: integrating data and developing models to uncover the complex mechanisms by which the brain and nervous system process information over multiple scales in space and time; and the development of new computational paradigms and approaches based on the way distributed networks of neurons in the brain process information. Increased funding will stimulate Knowledge Networking through advances in neuroinformatics, and will enable comparative studies of genomics to provide insights into biological processes and developmental pathways in an evolutionary context.

  • Increased support for research on the functional underpinnings of Life and Earth’s Environment, including characterization of the diverse array of adaptive mechanisms used by microbes, plants, and animals for life in extreme environments; the role of environmental perturbations that disrupt the endocrine system in individual organisms; and understanding the reciprocal interactions between species and ecosystem function, one of the major research challenges in environmental biology.

    • Increased support for CAREER awards and for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) supplements, to enhance Educating for the Future.
    • Support to enhance award size and duration in priority areas, such as the evolution of developmental mechanisms. This emerging field, poised for rapid growth, employs molecular developmental approaches and genomic information from diverse organisms to uncover the fundamental mechanisms governing how organisms acquire the wide variety of adult body forms found in nature.

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