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Obama pledges $100 million for BRAIN research

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Apr 02 2013 06:54:00 PM HST

President Obama has just made a huge pledge to fund an ambitious new initiative to revolutionize brain research and Hawaii's population stands to reap the benefits.

HONOLULU -

Her memory faltering, Keiko Yampo is in for a test at Hawaii Pacific Neuroscience in Kailua.

"I'm just going to ask you to look at the pictures," asks one of the researchers.

It is the very basics in a vast field of research.

Director Dr. Kore Liow is thrilled by President Barak Obama's new BRAIN Initiative, pledging $100 million toward new research to better understand the organ between our ears.

"Think about what we could do once we do crack this code. Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson's or struggle in the grip of Epilepsy," said Obama in a news conference today.

"This neuroscience is really important to our state because of our elderly and aging population," said Liow.

In Hawaii alone, more than 30,000 people live with Alzheimer’s.

Liow said despite great strides, new research is needed to test patients with Alzheimer’s sooner.

"With funding, we'll be able to test patients at an earlier stage, at a pre-clinical stage, before the proteins build up in the brain," he said.

Liow has netted a group of specialists in a wide field of brain research, including Dr. David Kaminskas, who frequently deals with stroke patients and brain trauma.

He's eager to decipher the brain's chemistry with the hopes of a cure for the likes of schizophrenia and autism.

"In terms of understanding the brain, some say 5 to 10 percent, and yet we've been able to do so much just with the little knowledge that we have and yet there's so much more we can understand," he said.

"It's tremendously exciting. This is the decade of the brain. The brain truly defines who we are," said Liow.

As for Republicans, key members are supporting the President's initiative, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who called it, “great science."

Newt Gingrich called it, "a very important step."

Liow told KITV they plan to start clinical trials on an herbal treatment using a native Hawaiian plant that scientists believe will help treat Alzheimer’s.
 

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