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Biotech Science

Scientists Begin Mapping the Brain 129

Raindance writes "A team at the University of Utah has unveiled a system to map and digitize brain tissue — thus fulfilling one of the long-standing holy grails of neuroscience and enabling for the first time in-depth analysis of how mammalian neural networks function. So far, maps for the entire retina and related neural networks have been released; no ETA on a full-brain digital reconstruction yet. (One of the lead authors hangs out here on Slashdot.)"
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Scientists Begin Mapping the Brain

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  • Re:Now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:11PM (#27494833) Homepage Journal

    You already have one.

  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:37PM (#27495255) Homepage

    Exponentially increasing != infinite

    This is a MASSIVE mistake that sci-fi (aka syfy) writers make all the time when talking about computer power. Just because you have a lot, and you will have a lot more later, doesn't mean you have enough to compute everything.

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:39PM (#27495291)

    A neural network running a simulation of a human brain would be a Turing-complete strong AI

    I understand what you're saying here but there are a lot of non-trivial hurdles to get over, even assuming you can accurately scan and simulate the brain.

    First, the brain also includes a lot of chemical transmitters which we really don't understand the function of yet. You would have to include them in your model as well, including the ones that don't originate in the brain.

    Second, you have to interpret the simulated neuron firing into something that you can actually understand. It's pretty pointless for your brain-on-a-hard-drive to be saying 'hello' if you can't understand what it's saying. An accurate simulation of my mind would have all the neurons that control my breathing, lips, tongue, and vocal cords firing like crazy, but good luck figuring out what I'm saying.

    Third, you have to be able to supply meaningful input into the brain. You're essentially talking about submitting a consciousness (assuming your simulation is 100% accurate) to the most horrible sensory deprivation imaginable. In order for your research to be useful, you would have to supply it realistic input (including feedback based on it's output) otherwise the brain would change drastically just from that.

  • One word. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sybert42 ( 1309493 ) * on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @05:09PM (#27495781) Journal


  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @05:24PM (#27496003)

    I went through school, being told by science teachers that science really knows squat about the brain and how it works.

    Obviously, researchers can't resist a mystery and an intellectual challenge, and I can see why it would be fascinating to try and unravel the mysteries about how the brain works.

    I have a question for the neuroscientists however... what's so critically important about this work, to demand the enormous resources being sunk into this?

  • by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @10:47PM (#27498959) Journal

    It seems everyone is too busy being flippant or dismissive towards you, so I will attempt to give you an answer.

    1. Neuroscience is considered important in the medical field. The nervous system is important for almost every other bodily function if for no other reason than it is the control and communication system of the body.

    2. the brain is one of the least understood of our organs, and arguably, one of the more important ones. Anything we can learn about it helps a lot at this early stage.

    3. Scientists/med researchers are people too, and since people have diverse interests and passions, so do the scientists. They gravitate to fields that hold an interest/importance to them. Freedom of choice, etc....there is no pool of researchers and scientists that are assigned fields of study by some group/organization.

    4. Because it's there. This is a central drive inherent in 'boldly go where no man has gone before', and can be attributed to many reasons to do so.
    Curiosity, exploration for the thrill or ego(I was first!!!!), need to contribute/help, revenge/righting a perceived wrong...

    Yeah, this is all just basic stuff, but can be easily overlooked or taken for granted. On one side(funding) you have special interests, on the other you have researchers with special interests. They have a habit of finding each other.

    It gets to be easy to sit back and wonder 'why this and not that' from the outside. Maybe this will help:
    (I'm not asking for an answer, just giving food for thought, but it's okay to answer!)

    What do you do for a living? What got you into that, and why is it important to you? If not important to you(other than to make a living), then what would you want/like to do? Apply those answers to your question, and you may have an answer.(not trying to be an ass, but it's not an 'easy/one answer' question.

    On a more personal note, I'm all for neuroscience to blast forward. At my age, my mind is in the best shape of any of my other 'parts', and I would love to be able to go into a body shop and have my brain transferred(by some means) to a new body. :-)

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling