Learn How Scientists are Decoding the Most Complex Object in the Universe: The Brain

Researchers from University College London (UCL) are working on a project with the lofty goal of analyzing the entirety of a brain’s neuronal activity in real time. Most estimates place the number of neurons in the average brain somewhere between 70 and 100 billion. Trying to record all of the relevant activity in one brain as it occurs will be difficult enough, but beyond that, the UCL team is planning to employ considerable processing power towards deciphering the meaning of each firing synapse.

NeuroPixels, as the prototype probes are being called, are the width of a human hair and can monitor hundreds of neurons at once over multiple regions of the brain while simultaneously digitizing the signal on-board and sending the information to a database. Developed in collaboration with a consortium of leading non-profit organizations in neuroscience, these super-sensitive electrode sensors are already being studied in mice models, and are expected to be available for purchase by research labs in mid-2018. The researchers are already in the process of developing the next generations of these sensors.

Click here to read more about this technology on the UCL News Outlet.

Rafael Yuste, MD, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at Columbia University, discusses the research goals of the brain activity map project. He explains the purpose of this ground breaking research is to develop tools that will allow scientists of the future to measure the activity of every neuron in the brain. The Brain Activity Map was recently cited by the Obama administration as the next big step to advancing medicine.

Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are also studying brain activity in the hopes of deciphering the mechanisms behind the brain’s decision-making process. By monitoring the activity of neurons directly after a stimulus, and using algebraic topology to visualize that activity, computers are able to recognize patterns in the overwhelming amount of data. Kathryn Hess Bellwood, PhD describes how the research output seems to show a clear delineation between when the brain is processing the stimuli and the exact moment a decision is made. This research will help us determine the brain’s encoding process, how bits of information gets transferred throughout the body.

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