"I don't want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here, in the United States of America," the president said Tuesday in an event in the East Room of the White House.
"And that's part of what this BRAIN Initiative is about," he said referring to the initiative, dubbed Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies.
"That's why we're pursuing other 'grand challenges' like making solar energy as cheap as coal or making electric vehicles as affordable as the ones that run on gas," Obama said.
"What if computers could respond to our thoughts? Or language barriers could come tumbling down? Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields -- jobs we haven't even dreamt up yet because we chose to invest in this project? That is the future we are imagining. That is what we are hoping for," he said.
"There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked," Obama said, "and the BRAIN Initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action and better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember. And that knowledge could be -- will be -- transformative."
BRAIN "aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury", the White House said in a release.
The money to study the brain would support research by the National Institutes of Health, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. The research would involve both federal research agencies and private partners.
A major goal is to reveal "how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought", the White House said.
"Our ultimate objective is a deep understanding of the human brain and its understanding," said DARPA director Arati Prabhakar in a conference call with reporters.