Monday, March 10, 2008

Connectomics

T3 hollar'd at me this morning about neural density. This in turn provoked me to dredge up this post on neuroeconomics from the archives and do a bit of google-ing. My remarks to T3 were rather disparaging of the state of the art. As it turns out however, the dismissive remarks were right on target as this article in the current Technology Review bears out.
The diagram is the fruit of an emerging field called "connectomics," which attempts to physically map the ­tangle of neural circuits that collect, ­process, and archive information in the nervous system. Such maps could ultimately shed light on the early development of the human brain and on diseases that may be linked to faulty wiring, such as autism and schizophrenia. "The brain is ­essentially a computer that wires itself up during development and can rewire itself," says ­Sebastian Seung, a computational neuroscientist at MIT, who is working with Lichtman. "If we have a wiring diagram of the brain, that could help us understand how it works."

Although researchers have been studying neural connectivity for decades, existing tools don't offer the resolution needed to reveal how the brain works. In particular, scientists haven't been able to generate a detailed picture of the hundreds of millions of neurons in the brain, or of the connections between them.
Not exactly the product of crack smoking, but a little on the "crackish" side, just the same...., The pictures are pretty and the underlying techniques are interesting and in sync with some prior articles on bio-fluorescence.