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NCCIH Research Blog

BRAIN Initiative Program Supports Rigorous Research on Behavior Measurement

September 29, 2023

Image of Erin Quinlan, Ph.D.

Erin Burke Quinlan, Ph.D.

Program Director

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

As complementary and integrative health researchers, we want to find out how the interventions we study exert their positive influences on the brain and behavior. For the brain, we have the methods to make this possible; modern tools enable us to measure effects on brain circuit function at high levels of spatial and temporal resolution. However, we don’t have comparably rigorous methods for precisely quantifying effects on behavior. And without them, our ability to link brain activity to behavioral changes is limited.

The Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative has a new program—the Brain Behavior Quantification and Synchronization (BBQS) program—that is working toward filling this gap. I’d like to share some details about the program and a funding opportunity that may interest you.

The BBQS program was initiated in response to the report BRAIN 2.0: From Cells to Circuits, Toward Cures, which revisited the BRAIN Initiative’s priorities at the initiative’s midway point. The report called for “more sophisticated methods of quantifying behavioral, environmental, and internal state influences on individuals.” 

The goals of the BBQS program are to:

  • Develop new high-resolution tools and data science approaches that can precisely quantify behaviors with high resolution and synchronize them with simultaneously recorded brain activity
  • Build new conceptual and computational models for behavioral systems, with which to establish causal brain-behavior relationships
  • Establish a cross-disciplinary consortium to develop and disseminate new tools, ontologies, and research designs in this field

The BBQS program was launched in 2022 with a 2-day workshop to foster discussion on how to advance a more comprehensive understanding of behavior. You can watch both Day 1 and Day 2 on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) VideoCast website.

The BRAIN Initiative has issued several notices of funding opportunity (NOFOs) to address different aspects of the BBQS goals. One of them, RFA-MH-23-335, has a due date on February 15, 2024. This NOFO, which uses the two-stage R61/R33 mechanism, is intended to support development of novel tools or approaches for precisely quantifying behaviors (in the R61 phase), followed by integration/synchronization of the new methods with established methods for recording human brain activity (in the R33 phase). Transition to the R33 phase will depend on successful completion of the milestones for the R61 phase. A wide variety of projects may be suitable for this NOFO, but it is expected that all of them will involve multidisciplinary research teams with expertise spanning a variety of areas such as behavior measurement, neurobiology, computer/data systems, and artificial intelligence. Please share this NOFO with colleagues and potential collaborators who may be interested. We want to receive the best possible applications. 

You may also be interested in viewing the archived recording of the May 2023 workshop on a topic of particular interest to the BBQS program: sensor technologies to capture the complexity of behavior. Recordings of this BBQS workshop on sensor technologies are available online.  

If you have questions about the funding opportunity or the BBQS program, contact me at And please keep an eye out for future blog posts, where I’ll share information about research being supported by BBQS and future BBQS funding opportunities.

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