Neuroinformatics is a research field concerned with the organization of neuroscience data by the application of computational models and analytical tools. These areas of research are important for the integration and analysis of increasingly large-volume, high-dimensional, and fine-grain experimental data. Neuroinformaticians provide computational tools, mathematical models, and create interoperable databases for clinicians and research scientists. Neuroscience is a heterogeneous field, consisting of many and various sub-disciplines (e.g., Cognitive Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Behavioral Genetics). In order for our understanding of the brain to continue to deepen, it is necessary that these sub-disciplines are able to share data and findings in a meaningful way; Neuroinformaticians facilitate this.
Neuroinformatics stands at the intersection of neuroscience and information science. Other fields, like genomics, have demonstrated the effectiveness of freely-distributed databases and the application of theoretical and computational models for solving complex problems. In Neuroinformatics, such facilities allow researchers to more easily quantitatively confirm their working theories by computational modeling. Additionally, neuroinformatics fosters collaborative research—an important fact that facilitates the field's interest in studying the multi-level complexity of the brain.
Starting in 1989, the United States National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine with funds to undertake a careful analysis and study of the need to create databases, share neuroscientific data and to examine how the field of information technology could create the tools needed for the increasing volume and modalities of neuroscientific data. The positive recommendations were reported in 1991 (“Mapping The Brain And Its Functions. Integrating Enabling Technologies Into Neuroscience Research." National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. ed. Pechura, C.M., and Martin, J.B.) This positive report enabled NIMH, now directed by Allan Leshner, to create the "Human Brain Project” (HBP), with the first grants awarded in 1993. The HBP was led by Koslow along with cooperative efforts of other NIH Institutes, the NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Energy. The HPG and grant-funding initiative in this area slightly preceded the explosive expansion of the World Wide Web. From 1993 through 2004 this program grew to over 100 million dollars in funded grants.
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