Podcast 1: Our Interview With Joshua Vogelstein

Here it is – the first Connectome podcast! Click here to subscribe in iTunes. Join us as we talk with Joshua Vogelstein, a leading connectomics researcher, about the Open Connectome Project, an international venture to make data on neural connectivity available to everyone, all over the world. It’s like Google Maps for your brain. Here’s a direct link to download the mp3. We’ve learned a lot while working on this first episode, and future ones will be much cleaner and higher-fi. Anyway, enjoy! Continue reading Podcast 1: Our Interview With Joshua Vogelstein

Taking Vision Apart

For the first time, scientists have created neuron-by-neuron maps of brain regions corresponding to specific kinds of visual information, and specific parts of the visual field, says a new study. If other labs can confirm these results, this will mean we’re very close to being able to predict exactly which neurons will fire when an animal looks at a specific object. Our understanding of neural networks has come a very long way in a very short time. It was just a little more than 100 years ago that Santiago Ramón y Cajal first proposed the theory that individual cells – neurons … Continue reading Taking Vision Apart

Saving Faces

A brain area that’s specialized to recognize faces has a unique structure in each of our brains – and mapping that area’s connectivity patterns can tell us how each of our brains use it, says a new study. The fusiform gyrus in the temporal lobe plays a part in our recognition of words, numbers, faces, colors, and other visual specifics – but it’s becoming increasingly clear that no two people’s fusiform gyrus structure is identical. By studying this region in a larger connectomic framework, though, researchers can now predict which parts of a certain person’s fusiform gyrus are specialized for … Continue reading Saving Faces

“M” Marks the Spot

A completely new method for mapping brain anatomy will give us a much clearer idea of where some areas end and others begin. The new technique compares two different kinds of fMRI data to show where there’s myelin – the sheath that only surrounds long-range neuron branches (axons) – at a speed and level of detail never possible before. This breakthrough will help scientists look for the differences between the brain’s “surface streets” and its “highways” while that brain is actually working. See, scientists have known since the late 1800s that the it’s pretty easy to find the borders of brain structures, by looking for … Continue reading “M” Marks the Spot

Mind-Mapping

The connectome of the humble roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, is revealing intriguing clues about how neural networks analyze and act on information. The C. elegans connectome was officially mapped back in 1986. It contains only 302 neurons and about 8,000 synapses – compared to one hundred billion neurons and some seven hundred trillion synaptic connections in a human connectome. Even so, it’s only recently that a team led by Dr. Cornelia I. Bargmann at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have made serious progress in understanding how this worm connectome (click that link; it’s awesome) represents data, passes it around, analyzes it, and converts its conclusions into action. This research should provide a simplified … Continue reading Mind-Mapping

Questions Answered

In the interest of transparency and open dialogue, I’ll be structuring this post in the popular “Q&A” format, which will be familiar to fans of talk shows, WoW conventions, and the Gestapo. So without further ado, here are a bunch of questions and answers I made up. Q. Did something completely awesome happen in the field of neuroscience on April 12, 2011? A. Yes: the Allen Institute for Brain Science announced that they’ve completed the Allen Human Brain Atlas, “the world’s first anatomically and genomically comprehensive human brain map.” This digital map will allow researchers to examine the precise anatomy, … Continue reading Questions Answered