October 5, 2015

Neuroscience - today and tomorrow

Nature takes a look at the technologies that will enable us to unravel some of the mind's mysteries.
http://www.nature.com/news/neuroscience-solving-the-brain-1.13382 - Researchers want to understand the ways in which brain circuitry changes — through the constant growth and retreat of synapses — as life rolls by.

"Reaching this goal will require innovative new technologies, ranging from nanotechnologies to genetics to optics, that can capture the electrical activity coursing through neurons, prod those neurons to find out what they do, map the underlying anatomical circuits in fine detail and process the exabytes of information all this work will spit out. “Think about it,” says neuroscientist Konrad Kording of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. “The human brain produces in 30 seconds as much data as the Hubble Space Telescope has produced in its lifetime.”

the most daunting part of the brain challenge lies in storing and handling data. One cubic millimetre of brain tissue will generate an estimated 2,000 terabytes of electron-microscopy information using Lichtman and Denk's new microscope, for example. Denk estimates that an entire mouse brain could produce 60 petabytes and a human brain about 200 exabytes. This amount of data will rival the entire digital content of today's world, “including Facebook and all the big data stores”, says Lichtman."

I was particularly impressed with the predictions made by IMEC, a nanoelectronics research organization. They recently unveiled a prototype 'neuroprobe'. One-centimetre long and as thin as a dollar bill, the probe packs in 52 thin wires and switches that neuroscientists can flip seamlessly between 456 silicon electrodes.

When inserted into a mouse brain, the electrodes dotted across the imec probe can span — and record from — all layers of the animal's brain simultaneously, from the cortex to the thalamus in the brainstem. This could help neuroscientists to unpick the circuitry that connects them. “This prototype can be scaled up,” says Peter Peumans, director of bio- and nanoelectronics at imec. Within three years, he says, the neuroprobes will have up to 2,000 electrodes and more than 200 wires.

It's a pretty good read if you are looking for an update on the current and future state of Neuroscience.

Looking for more brainy links?
> Make up your mind
http://goo.gl/O80gGP .
> How does the world look through the eyes of neuroscience?http://goo.gl/MFHj5v .
> Old Brains Learning New Tricks
http://goo.gl/IZYnTR .
> Inception
http://goo.gl/qFXsgl .

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