The Future of the Brain

The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World's Leading Neuroscientists

GARY MARCUS
JEREMY FREEMAN
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qh0x7
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  • Book Info
    The Future of the Brain
    Book Description:

    Including a chapter by 2014 Nobel laureates May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser

    An unprecedented look at the quest to unravel the mysteries of the human brain,The Future of the Braintakes readers to the absolute frontiers of science. Original essays by leading researchers such as Christof Koch, George Church, Olaf Sporns, and May-Britt and Edvard Moser describe the spectacular technological advances that will enable us to map the more than eighty-five billion neurons in the brain, as well as the challenges that lie ahead in understanding the anticipated deluge of data and the prospects for building working simulations of the human brain. A must-read for anyone trying to understand ambitious new research programs such as the Obama administration's BRAIN Initiative and the European Union's Human Brain Project,The Future of the Brainsheds light on the breathtaking implications of brain science for medicine, psychiatry, and even human consciousness itself.

    Contributors include: Misha Ahrens, Ned Block, Matteo Carandini, George Church, John Donoghue, Chris Eliasmith, Simon Fisher, Mike Hawrylycz, Sean Hill, Christof Koch, Leah Krubitzer, Michel Maharbiz, Kevin Mitchell, Edvard Moser, May-Britt Moser, David Poeppel, Krishna Shenoy, Olaf Sporns, Anthony Zador.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5193-5
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Gary Marcus and Jeremy Freeman
  5. MAPPING THE BRAIN
    • BUILDING ATLASES OF THE BRAIN
      (pp. 3-16)
      Mike Hawrylycz, Chinh Dang, Christof Koch and Hongkui Zeng

      The earliest known significant works on human anatomy were collected by the Greek physician Claudius Galen around 200 BCE. This ancient corpus remained the dominant viewpoint through the Middle Ages until the classic workDe humani corporis fabrica(On the Fabric of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius of Padua (1514–1564), the first modern anatomist. Even today many of Vesalius’s drawings are astonishing to study and are largely accurate. For nearly two centuries scholars have recognized that the brain is compartmentalized into distinct regions, and this organization is preserved throughout mammals in general. However, comprehending the structural organization and...

    • WHOLE BRAIN NEUROIMAGING AND VIRTUAL REALITY
      (pp. 17-24)
      Misha B. Ahrens

      Historically, the brain has been studied in small chunks, such as by recording from individual or small groups of cells, making it challenging to relate discoveries at the small network level to function that relies on whole-brain mechanisms. As this book goes to press, there are a number of efforts underway aimed at recording activity from ever-more neurons simultaneously, presumably an important step toward a fuller understanding of how the brain works and how the computations the many thousands or billions of its constituents perform make up the function of the whole (see chapter by Shenoy, this volume). In this...

    • PROJECT MINDSCOPE
      (pp. 25-39)
      Christof Koch, Clay Reid, Hongkui Zeng, Stefan Mihalas, Mike Hawrylycz, John Philips, Chinh Dang and Allan Jones

      The human brain, with its eighty-six billion nerve cells, is the most complex piece of organized matter in the known universe. It is the organ responsible for behavior, memory, and perception, including that most mysterious of all phenomena, consciousness. Neuroscience, the discipline that seeks to understand the principles underlying the brain’s operation, has over the past century and a half of its history uncovered its constitutive elements—membrane channels, synapses, and nerve cells. Yet their stunning heterogeneity, sheer numbers, and the breathtaking diversity in which they are assembled has resisted reductionist understanding of anything but minute aspects of its behavior....

    • THE CONNECTOME AS A DNA SEQUENCING PROBLEM
      (pp. 40-49)
      Anthony Zador

      Each year more than thirty thousand neuroscientists gather to share what they have discovered, enough to fill thousands of scientific papers. The rate of progress is staggering. Yet we still don’t really understand how the brain works.

      Why? I would argue that the reason we don’t understand how the brain works is that we are missing crucial information. Although we know a great deal about molecules and single neurons, and also about the gross organization of brain areas, our knowledge is scarce between these two extremes, at the level of neural circuits. For this a vital prerequisite is knowing the...

    • ROSETTA BRAIN
      (pp. 50-64)
      George Church, Adam Marblestone and Reza Kalhor

      As with many biological systems studied in the past, the more we look at the brain, the more we find complexity. To start, the neurons are packed densely in a 3D matrix with upwards of 100,000 neurons and 900,000,000 synaptic connections per cubic millimeter of brain tissue. Moreover, neurons come in hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of functionally distinct cell types with unique morphologies and molecular (epigenetic) identities.

      Synaptic connections can be excitatory or inhibitory and can transmit information using more than one hundred distinct neurotransmitter molecules. These connections change strength, break, and reform over time, and can even alter which...

  6. COMPUTATION
    • UNDERSTANDING THE CORTEX THROUGH GRID CELLS
      (pp. 67-77)
      May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser

      One of the ultimate goals of neuroscience is to understand the mammalian cerebral cortex, the outermost sheet of neural tissue that covers the cerebral hemispheres. All mammalian brains have a cortex, but during evolution, the size of the cortex has expanded enormously, and in the largest brains the growth has resulted in extensive folding, with much of the cortical surface getting buried in deep grooves, or sulci and fissures. The cortex is the site where most cognition and intellectual activity takes place. Thinking, planning, reflection, and imagination depend on it. Memories are stored there, and the cortex takes care of...

    • RECORDING FROM MANY NEURONS SIMULTANEOUSLY: FROM MEASUREMENT TO MEANING
      (pp. 78-89)
      Krishna V. Shenoy

      The human brain is comprised of approximately one hundred billion neurons, yet most of what is known comes from measuring the activity of one neuron at a time. Or, at the other extreme, studies rely on measuring the aggregate activity of thousands to millions of neurons at a time. This profound measurement limitation is changing rapidly. It is now possible to measure activity from many hundreds to thousands of individual neurons all at the same time, and it is widely believed that it will soon be possible to measure from many hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of neurons. As...

    • NETWORK NEUROSCIENCE
      (pp. 90-99)
      Olaf Sporns

      Unraveling the mechanisms and principles that create mind and cognition from the activity of roughly eighty-six million neurons in the human brain remains one of the most alluring as well as urgent scientific pursuits. The urgency of the task is underscored by the immense and growing health, social, and economic impact of brain and mental disorders. How can we get closer to a more complete understanding of how the brain works? Certainly, progress will in part come from the slow and gradual accumulation of increasingly more detailed insights about neural mechanisms. But as I will argue in this essay, neuroscience...

    • LARGE-SCALE NEUROSCIENCE: FROM ANALYTICS TO INSIGHT
      (pp. 100-108)
      Jeremy Freeman

      The brain contains millions of neurons. Equally vast is the range of any creature’s experience in an ever-changing world.

      Yet the laboratory typically limits both the scale of neural measurement and the complexity of behavioral context. An experimenter might record the response of a single sensory neuron to a tiny set of stimuli in order to determine which stimulus triggers the most vigorous response. Or an experimenter might measure the activity of a few isolated motor neurons while an animal performs one simple behavior, which allows the researcher to establish a clear relationship between the behavior and the neural responses....

  7. SIMULATING THE BRAIN
    • WHOLE BRAIN SIMULATION
      (pp. 111-124)
      Sean Hill

      Richard Feynman famously said, “What I cannot create, I do not understand.” To truly understand the brain we need the tools to create it, in brain atlases, computer models, and simulations. In this essay I will talk about the Human Brain Project (HBP,www.humanbrainproject.eu), which has recently been awarded European Commission funding (~one billion euros over ten years) to provide a series of information-technology-based platforms aimed specifically at enabling a global collaboration between neuroscientists and driving innovation in neuroscience, medicine, and computing (see color plate 8). The platforms to be delivered are for Neuroinformatics, Medical Informatics, Brain Simulation, High Performance...

    • BUILDING A BEHAVING BRAIN
      (pp. 125-136)
      Chris Eliasmith

      One of the grand challenges that the National Academy of Engineers identified is to reverse engineer the brain. Neuroscientists and psychologists would no doubt agree that this is, indeed, a grand challenge.

      But what exactly does it mean to “reverse engineer” a brain? In general, reverse engineering is a method by which we take an already made product and systematically explore its behavior at many levels of description so as to synthesize (that is,build) a similar product. We attempt to identify its components and how they work, as well as how they are composed to give rise to the...

  8. LANGUAGE
    • THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF LANGUAGE
      (pp. 139-148)
      David Poeppel

      The ease, speed, and apparent automaticity with which we can greet a friend, follow a conversation, or read this sentence belie the considerable complexity of such seemingly effortless language tasks. Even the most elementary linguistic “event,” say recognizing a single spoken word (“prose”), requires the coordination of a number of complex subprocesses (for example, analysis of the basic acoustic signal attributes, phonetic decoding, look-up/matching of the item in one’s mental dictionary, retrieval of the word’s pronunciation instructions, meaning, and grammatical specifications). And comprehending or producing a sentence (“Composing prose is an arduous affair”) entails the subtle orchestration of dozens of...

    • TRANSLATING THE GENOME IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE
      (pp. 149-158)
      Simon E. Fisher

      At the beginning of 2001, geneticists reported the initial draft sequence of the genome ofHomo sapiens, the outcome of a huge effort that had occupied thousands of scientists across the world for more than a decade, with a price tag of several billion dollars. By 2004 this initial draft had been converted into an almost complete representation; the researchers estimated that over 99 percent of the human genome was now covered with high accuracy (less than one error in every 100,000 letters of DNA). In the years that followed, thanks to the ingenuity of a new breed of molecular...

  9. SKEPTICS
    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
    • CONSCIOUSNESS, BIG SCIENCE, AND CONCEPTUAL CLARITY
      (pp. 161-176)
      Ned Block

      With enormous investments in neuroscience looming on the horizon, including proposals to map the activity of every neuron in the brain, it is worth asking what questions such an investment might be expected to contribute to answering. What is the likelihood that high-resolution mapping will resolve fundamental questions about how the mind works? I will argue that high-resolution maps are far from sufficient, and that the utility of new technologies in neuroscience depends on developing them in tandem with the psycho-neural concepts needed to understand how the mind is implemented in the brain.

      Using high school geometry, we can understand...

    • FROM CIRCUITS TO BEHAVIOR: A BRIDGE TOO FAR?
      (pp. 177-185)
      Matteo Carandini

      A fundamental mandate of neuroscience is to reveal how neural circuits lead to perception, thought, and ultimately behavior. The general public might think this goal is already achieved: when a news report says that a behavior is associated with some part of the brain, people tend to take that statement as an explanation. But neuroscientists know that most aspects of behavior result from neural circuits that are yet to established.

      Clearly we need to do more work, and funders and institutions are aware of this. For instance, the University of California–San Diego has the Center for Neural Circuits and...

    • LESSONS FROM EVOLUTION
      (pp. 186-193)
      Leah Krubitzer

      When invited to contribute to this book,The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World’s Leading Neuroscientists, I agreed for two reasons. The first and most obvious is that I study the brain. However, as an evolutionary neurobiologist I am more interested in its past than in its future. The second reason is based on pure vanity; who could resist agreeing to be included among the “world’s leading neuroscientists”? In this essay I reflect on a few important things I’ve come to appreciate about brain function and evolution, where I think we should direct our future energies in trying...

    • LESSONS FROM THE GENOME
      (pp. 194-204)
      Arthur Caplan and Nathan Kunzler

      Inspired by the success in mapping the human genome, two significant projects are now underway to map and improve our understanding of the human brain. President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) and the European Commission’s Human Brain Project. Each project is expected to cost about a billion dollars. Both are to be carried out over ten-year spans.

      The BRAIN project was, at the time of its initial announcement, explicitly compared to the Human Genome Project. The hope, says the White House, is that the project will lead to a long list of practical applications, including...

    • THE COMPUTATIONAL BRAIN
      (pp. 205-216)
      Gary Marcus

      Neuroscience today is collection of facts, rather than ideas; what is missing is connective tissue. We know (or think we know) roughly what neurons do, and that they communicate with one another, but not what they are communicating. We know the identities of many of the molecules inside individual neurons and what they do. We know from neuroanatomy that there are many repeated structures (motifs) throughout the neocortex. Yet we know almost nothing about what those motifs are for, or how they work together to support complex real-world behavior. The truth is that we are still at a loss to...

  10. IMPLICATIONS
    • NEUROTECHNOLOGY
      (pp. 219-233)
      John Donoghue

      We currently lack a deep understanding of how brains operate and how a brain’s obscure operations produce behavior, especially those behaviors that are highly specialized in humans. Superficially, brains represent and store activity patterns, and then, sometimes, transform them by “neural computations” to generate an overt behavior. How the collective actions of neurons embedded in immensely complex circuits “represent” and “compute” has been elusive. This ignorance also profoundly limits our ability to treat many of the most debilitating brain disorders, like depression, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia, or paralysis, which emerge from impaired circuit function. But some of those deficiencies may soon...

    • THE MISWIRED BRAIN, GENES, AND MENTAL ILLNESS
      (pp. 234-242)
      Kevin J. Mitchell

      If you go to the doctor with chronic abdominal distress, the physician and other technicians will perform a series of tests to try and figure out the cause. They may check inflammatory markers in your blood, test for allergies, perform a colonoscopy, take biopsies, test various enzyme levels, and so on. Ultimately, they may return a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or colon cancer or ulcerative colitis or any of a long list of discrete conditions that can manifest with similar symptoms. Knowing the cause will directly inform the treatment. In the event that a cause cannot be found, your illness...

    • NEURAL DUST: AN UNTETHERED APPROACH TO CHRONIC BRAIN-MACHINE INTERFACES
      (pp. 243-252)
      Michel M. Maharbiz, Dongjin Seo, Jose M. Carmena, Jan M. Rabaey and Elad Alon

      Brain-machine interface (BMI) technology (see chapter by Donoghue) aims to improve the quality of life for those suffering from paralysis and neurological conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and stroke. Half a century of scientific and engineering effort has yielded a vast body of knowledge and a closely related set of tools for interfacing the mammalian brain that should lead to clinically viable applications. Yet two main challenges remain: (1) engineering fully implantable, untethered, clinically viable neural interfaces that last a lifetime, and (2) boosting performance to achieve skillful control and dexterity of the prosthetic device to a level that...

  11. AFTERWORD
    • NEUROSCIENCE IN 2064: A LOOK AT THE LAST CENTURY
      (pp. 255-270)
      Christof Koch and Gary Marcus

      On a warm summer evening, not long ago, while we, the authors, were engaged in a spirited debate about the nature of consciousness, a traveler, going by the name of Lem, appeared, claiming to be from the future; at first, we were skeptical. But his recollections were vivid, and detailed, and more than that, internally consistent. Try as we could, we couldn’t break his story; he claimed to be from the year 2064, and his knowledge of neuroscience seemed to be exceptional. Over time, we began to believe that his reports were authentic; in what is below, we have transcribed...

  12. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 271-274)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 275-284)