“Crowdsourcing a Neuroscience Revolution” — Podcast 10: Sebastian Seung

Ben chats with Sebastian Seung, a neuroscience researcher whose latest work — in cooperation with teams at MIT, at Germany’s Max Planck Institute and at other cutting-edge institutions — is proving that an improbable-sounding dream isn’t so improbable after all: We may be able to map the structure and function of every neural connection in an entire mammalian nervous system, from the cellular level up… and it may happen within our lifetimes. Seung’s bestselling book Connectome offers an exciting tour through this fast-growing field of connectomics — and in fact, it was his TEDTalk, “I Am My Connectome,” that sparked … Continue reading “Crowdsourcing a Neuroscience Revolution” — Podcast 10: Sebastian Seung

“Using Worms to Crack the Human Brain” — Podcast 4: Scott Emmons

Ben chats with Scott W. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience and genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Emmons talks about his cutting-edge connectomics research, which may help us understand how neural circuits “decide” on a particular behavior. Though his recent work focuses on the nervous systems of microscopic worms, its implications may reach all the way to the human brain. Enjoy, and feel free to email us questions and suggestions for next time! (Produced by Devin O’Neill) Continue reading “Using Worms to Crack the Human Brain” — Podcast 4: Scott Emmons

“Open Access to the Brain” – Podcast 1: Joshua Vogelstein

Join Ben as he talks 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. 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 “Open Access to the Brain” – Podcast 1: 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