Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Starting with the rats - Neuroscientists propose project to comprehensively map mammalian brain circuits - March 31, 2009

Thirty-seven scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and 20 other major research institutions in the U.S. and Europe have issued a major challenge to the neuroscience community. At long last, the time has come, they argue in a just-published paper, to assemble a comprehensive map of the major neural circuits in the mammalian brain.

In an age in which the genomes of many organisms, including that of humans, have been fully sequenced and can be accessed instantly by anyone with a computer, anywhere in the world, it is astonishing to consider that "we have, as yet, not been able to compile a whole-brain map of the circuitry that underlies the functioning of our own brains," notes Professor Partha P. Mitra, Ph.D., senior author of the paper and leader of the ongoing Brain Architecture Project at CSHL, funded by the WM Keck Foundation. To help address this knowledge gap, Mitra organized a series of meetings at the CSHL Banbury Center in 2007 and 2008, from which this proposal grew.

The neuroscience community's "sparse knowledge" of mammalian neuroanatomical circuitry is "perhaps the largest lacuna in our knowledge about nervous system structure," Mitra and colleagues observe in their paper, which appears in the March issue of PLoS Computational Biology.

The case for committing resources to assembly of a whole-brain circuit map is particularly strong, they say, because it almost certainly will provide insights about what goes wrong in brain dysfunctions spanning a range of neurodevelopmental illnesses including autism, schizophrenia, and perhaps mood disorders such as depression, bipolar illness, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Further, the authors argue that technological advances along with decreasing computational and data-storage costs have made such an effort feasible now, when it could only be dreamt of even in the recent past.

Read more>>

Follow me on Twitter. Technological Singularity and Futurism is updated often; the easiest way to get your regular dose is by subscribing to our news feed. Stay on top of all our updates by subscribing now via RSS or Email.