Sunday, February 3, 2008

Mapping the Brain

Wired has a great article concerning a group of researchers from Harvard who are trying to create a circuit diagram of the brain, now with mice, but ultimately our own. This looks at far more detail than conventional brain scan techniques. They are intending to get the anatomy down to the synaptic level (all the connections between the actual nerve cells). This new field of study or technique is known as "connectomics".

"It is to neuroscience what genomics is to genetics. Where genetics looks at individual genes or groups of genes, genomics looks at the entire genetic complement of an organism. Connectomics makes a similar jump in scale and ambition, from studying individual cells to studying swaths of the brain containing millions of cells."

"A map of the mind's circuitry would allow researchers to see the wiring problems that might underpin disorders like autism and schizophrenia."

""The 'wiring diagram' of the brain could help us understand how the brain computes, how it wires itself up during development and rewires itself in adulthood," said Sebastian Seung, a computational-neuroscience professor at MIT"

"Michael Huerta, associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health for scientific technology research, said that connectomics will fill a key gap in our understanding of the brain.
"You could conceivably know every chemical and every molecule of every cell in the brain, but unless you understand how those cells are connected to each other, you have no idea how information is being processed," Huerta said. "The connectome, in my opinion, is really what it's all about""

In addition to the fundamental science and reward of knowledge, and the potential to really understand mental illness and brain disorders, this is a common devise for science fiction.
Mind uploading, or even manipulating minds with nano-implants seem feasible, and even probable.

1 comment:

Kappa no He said...

Wow, this is absolutely fascinating. What I wouldn't give to be young and in a situation to study this from the get-go. It will make our current method of treating various mental illnesses with a cocktail of medicines look totally barbarian.