1/2/2014, Brainstormers: Obama’s big research push kicks off


Eighteen months after President Obama launched an ambitious brain-research initiative, likened by some to the moonshot of the 1960s, federal officials are trying to create a new model for neuroscience research, one that emphasizes innovation and cooperation across specialties and institutions. To do that, they threw a two-day “kickoff” for scientists fortunate enough to have received the first funding slices of what probably will be a multibillion-dollar federal pie…

There are approximately 86 billion neurons in our brain, and at a minimum those neurons contain 100 trillion synapses, or connections. Identifying synaptic connections is further complicated by the fact that while the genome is essentially fixed, the brain is changing constantly. Every thought, every emotion, every act we perform creates, redirects, strengthens or weakens neural connections…

Japan, Australia and Israel also are in the planning stages of their own national neuro projects, and China launched its program nearly a decade ago…

…and using new data to develop theories on how the healthy human brain works.

Shouldn’t we first define what “healthy” means, as it pertains to the brain?

Only one species has had the entirety of its brain connections, called a connectome, mapped. At one millimeter in length, the C. elegans roundworm has 302 neurons, harboring about 6,400 connections. It took scientists more than a decade to complete a map of its neural code, but that was in 1986, before automated brain sectioning and computer algorithm data analysis.

Mapping the human connectome, at least right now, seems almost beyond comprehension. In just a single cubic millimeter of human brain tissue — about the size of a grain of salt — there are 30,000 neurons and 50 million connections…

The West Virginia scientist told the Hopkins researcher about her previous work studying abnormal eye movements in schizophrenics. He told her about his research into dopamine receptors in schizophrenics…

Just looking for possible interest in the treatment of pain… no such luck.

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