Summary of Chaka Fattah’s Opening Addresses at the INS Annual Meeting

For the INS newsletter, I wrote a summary of Chaka Fattah's opening address given to attendees in Washington DC on 14 Nov 2014. I attempted share some of his witty and poignant quotes and convey the overall sentiment of his quick speech.

It was the second time I had heard him speak, and the U.S. House of Representatives neuroscience champion was as sharp and eloquent as ever. It was an honor to have him start the event.

Lecture Summary /

Chaka Fattah, U.S. House of Representatives Addresses INS Attendees

Congressman Chaka Fattah began a spirited day of discussion by highlighting our need for innovative neuroscience research and stressing the importance of scientific collaboration in our quest to better understand the brain.

Referencing the 50 million people who suffer from brain-related illnesses and the nearly 2 million youth with traumatic brain injuries, Fattah brought the audience into a grand scale of the public health issue as he sees it. A quest not just in terms of the cells and signals which can dominate scholarly discussions, but the overall quality of life for our kin. As our knowledge of the brain grows, he said, "we have an opportunity to have a positive effect on the lives of tens of millions of people, and the potential to also impact lives across the globe."

"I admire and support your great work," he extended to the science-minded audience, "but at the end of the day, all I get to do is decide where to spend the money."

Fattah, a seven-term Democratic representative from Pennsylvania, chairs the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee and is in charge of determining funding allocations for many large science agencies. A long -time supporter of neuroscience research, Fattah said he hopes practitioners, institutions and decision-makers in America can find ways to work together, much like their counterparts in the European Union who have made long- term investments in neuroscience research. Collaboration and committed public financing, he said, can help us realize our goals of understanding how the brain functions, falters and facilitates learning.

"We need to not just see the outer space clearly, but the inner space too," Fattah quipped, hinting at adventure and encouraging everyone to view brain research as grand and noble a voyage as our quest for the moon. "There is so much knowledge to be gained that we need to seize this moment not just for those in the United States, but for all humankind."

From the grand scale, Fattah brought the focus back to the upcoming neuroethics discussions, heralding events like the INS Annual Meeting as a critical piece in our collective effort to advance our understanding of the brain and safely develop new neurological technologies.

"Ethics needs to inform our work as we go forward, and the most ethical thing we can do is collaborate."