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Scientists Find Way to Map Brain's Complexity

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brain circuitry

Credit: iStockPhoto

University College London (UCL) researchers are developing a computer model of the brain by mapping the connections and functions of nerve cells. The study is part of an a new field called connectomics, which aims to map the brain's connections.

The researchers hope to understand how thoughts and perceptions are generated in the brain and how these functions affect diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and stroke. "Once we understand the function and connectivity of nerve cells spanning different layers of the brain, we can begin to develop a computer simulation of how this remarkable organ works," says UCL's Tom Mrsic-Flogel. However, he says that effort will require years of work and huge amounts of computer processing power.

In the most recent study, the researchers focused on the visual cortex of a mouse brain, which contains thousands of neurons and millions of different connections. The researchers used high-resolution imaging to detect which neurons responded to certain stimuli. They plan to use this method to create a wiring diagram of the brain area with a specific function, adding the sections of the brain that control touch, hearing, and movement.

From Reuters
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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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