Brain research

Commission activities in the area of Brain research

The impact of neurological and mental disorders

Some 165 million Europeans are living with a brain disorder. In fact, it is estimated that one in three people are or will suffer from some neurological and psychiatric disorder.

The global cost to European national health budgets is calculated at € 800 billion per year (= 5 times the EU budget). This is equivalent of € 1.5 million per minute. (Source: European Brain Council).

These human and monetary costs are expected to increase as a consequence of the general ageing of the European populations, more rapidly in some countries than others.

Brain disorders include neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease, but also schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, stroke, migraine, sleep disorders, traumatic brain injury, pain syndromes and addiction.

The brain is the most complex organ of the human body and despite many efforts we still do not yet fully understand how it works. Many debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Parkinson Disease have no cure. Mental illnesses have wide-reaching effects on people’s education, employment, physical health and relationships. Furthermore, patients are often confronted to stigma.

EU support for Brain research

As brain disorders are one of the greatest challenges the world faces these days, the solutions are likely to be beyond the scope and resources of any single country and must be addressed collectively. Hence the need for considerable efforts in research, not only in terms of funding, but also better coordination of research, among European countries, with other countries around the world, as well as between academia and industry. At the same time there is a need to develop personalised medicine approaches to various forms of many brain disorders.

The European Commission has been supporting brain research through the Framework programmes for many years. In the 7th Framework programme (2007-2013), €3.1 billion was invested in 1.931 projects and so far in the Horizon 2020 programme (2014-2020) another € 1.1 billion has been allocated. This is equivalent to just over € 400 million per year for the past 10 years.

These investments have been directed at better understanding brain function and dysfunction, developing methods for diagnosis and monitoring, prevention, treatment as well as care & support.

The EC is also supporting the Human Brain Project (HBP), a Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship that aims to provide a cutting-edge, ICT-based scientific Research Infrastructure for brain research, cognitive neuroscience and brain-inspired computing.

The EC is also fostering cooperation among EU Member States through the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), which is the largest global research initiative aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases. JPND involves 30 countries who are striving to align their national priorities and areas of excellence for increased efficiency and impact.

The EC is also leading an International initiative for Traumatic Brian Injury Research (InTBIR) with the US and Canada which allows researchers in Europe and North America to work together for better treatment of TBI burden in order to lower its impact on patients, families and healthcare systems.

Academia and industry collaboration is promoted through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) which is supported by the European Commission and by the pharmaceutical industry.