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Thread: Connectomics- mapping brain connections

  1. #1 Connectomics- mapping brain connections 
    Forum Sophomore Dkav's Avatar
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    There is a debate as to whether mapping brain connections on the microscale with electron microscopy is a worthy undertaking.

    I think it will be awesome and comparable to sequencing a genome. Once we map brain connections in diseased brains we can compare them to normal, compare mice to monkeys and eventually to humans in diseased and normal states and young vs old.

    Does anyone think for example: a project to map the brain of a an ape is worth pouring billions of dollars into; why/not ?

    Requirements:
    1. Faster methods of imaging brain slices with an electron microscope
    2. Machine learning computers to trace out all the connections at synapses from those images
    3. Capacity to store potentially many zetabytes of imaging and analysis data


    my initial discussion on scienceforums:
    http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/7...n-connections/

    A critical look at connectomics:
    http://www.nature.co...n1210-1441.html




    Last edited by Dkav; July 8th, 2013 at 10:22 PM. Reason: new link
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  3. #2  
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    Cool topic! I think that though the actual findings of connectome mapping might be limited (we will likely be able to determine exactly which neurons interact with exactly which other neurons), but having this information is similar to knowing the geography of the planet Earth. While we can see connections and where everything is, the geography tells us very little about how animal or plant species live or about the different cultures that are present around the globe. Of course, geography is an important tool that allows us to map ecological systems and to compare one closely related culture to another. Similarly, the connectome project, I think will provide a ton of excellent data that is very much useless (INITIALLY!) until we are able to understand what these connections and organizations actually mean.

    Also, the very action of doing this project might lead to significant improvements in biotech and computer science, much the same way the genome project has stimulated the DNA sequencing generation of biology.

    I'm totally in favor of the connectome project, but I am not expecting it to automatically allow us to understand the mind (maybe I will be surprised!)


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  4. #3  
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    Most neurons in the brain learn connections, so every human brain is different. There is no reason that I know of to map the human brain except to simulate it and see more general activity. Personally, I'm more in favor of a "take apart and recreate the mechanics" approach.
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    "It is the ability to make predictions about the future that is the crux of intelligence."
    -Jeff Hawkins.
    For example, you can predict that 3+5=8. You can predict what sequence of muscle commands you should generate during a conversation, or whether an object is a desk or a chair. The brain is very complicated, but that is essentially how intelligence works. Instinct, emotions, and behavior are somewhat seperate.
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