"There's this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked. And the BRAIN initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action," Obama said.
The research initiative, financed with $100 million of Obama's budget that will be unveiled next week, will seek to find new ways to treat, cure and prevent brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer's.
Researchers will try to make complex pictures of the inner brain that show how individual cells and neural circuits work and interact and examine how the brain records, uses and retrieves vast amounts of information.
The BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative will be run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.
Obama was introduced as "scientist in chief" at the White House event by NIH Director Francis Collins, and his administration makes the case that despite tough fiscal times, investments in science are vital.
"I am glad I have been promoted to scientist in chief -- given my grades in physics, I am not sure it is deserving," the president said.
"But I hold science in proper esteem, so maybe I get some credit."