As the human genome project revolutionized medicine just a decade ago, the United States intends to spend $100 million next year to begin mapping the 100 billion neurons of the human brain - the most complex structure known in the universe.

A White House official told media today that President Obama will next month announce funding that would involve private institutions in addition to government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation.

The massive project would require researchers to develop new technology to record the electrical activity of increasingly more neurons of the human brain, bringing immense implications for medicine and artificial intelligence, among other scientific fields.

Obama referenced the project in February's State of the Union address, comparing the initiative to the successful government-funded Human Genome Project whereby scientists mapped human DNA.

"Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy -- every dollar," Obama said. "Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer's."

As with many large-scale research projects, researchers expect to find the unexpected. To date, investigators have only mapped small parts of the human brain as well as the brains of other organisms, such as macaque monkeys.

Researchers at IBM, headquartered in Armonk, NY, found surprising information in mapping the brain of a macaque monkey, for example, adding to recent evidence that's quickly leaving 16th century philosophers in the dust. In that project, reported in 2010, scientists found a "tightly integrated core" they suspect might be the source of higher cognition and even consciousness, a nexus stretching through the premotor cortex, prefrontal cortex, temporal lobe, thalamus, visual cortex and several other regions of the monkey brain.

Scientists also expressed surprise to find the prefrontal cortex - though at the front of the brain -- to be a central hub of information processing, sending information throughout the system.

What surprises lay ahead for investigators at IBM and other private institutions, governments around the world? Some experts liken brain mapping to the brain peering in at itself from the outside, akin to the first images humans saw of their blue and white world from the vantage of outer space.

But aside from philosophical questions researchers point to practical applications as science gleans more information into Alzheimer's disease, addiction and other neurochemical problems that still define the human condition.