In this article for Scientific American, I tackle some common criticisms of big brain-mapping projects like the Human Connectome Project and the Brain Activity Map. Are they too complex to be feasible in our lifetimes? Maybe so. Do we even know exactly what we’re trying to achieve? It isn’t always precisely clear. But I argue that efforts like these matter anyway, for some very specific reasons.
There’s something to be said for chiseling away at longstanding problems like the workings of the human brain. Isaac Newton never guessed at the existence of quantum particles, but his celestial calculus freed us from the false and rigid concept of heavenly spheres. By the same token, our growing body of brain data may steer us away from outdated theories that tie us down to false premises, and toward a more integrated multi-level understanding of the human brain’s structure and function.
Read more of my article at Scientific American.