Technological Advances Provide New Ways to Study the Brain
Scientists develop innovative tools to improve methods for viewing, mapping, and analyzing the brain
CHICAGO — With the launch of the BRAIN Initiative and similar projects around the globe, new tools and techniques are being developed that will change the way neuroscientists study the brain. Advances in computer software allow scientists to quickly create three-dimensional models of brain regions and compile larger models that span the entire brain. Innovations in stem cell technology are providing researchers with a new way to study human diseases, while other technological advances have led to the development portable and wireless devices that offer ways to image brains in moving subjects for the first time.
The projects were described at Neuroscience 2015, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Scientists are developing a portable brain scanner that will allow subjects to move around while it takes high-resolution images of structures deep within the brain (Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, abstract 558.04, see attached summary).
- New software provides scientists with a way to quickly and easily create three-dimensional models from large datasets (Cameron Christensen, abstract 598.19, see attached summary).
- A new process for constructing models of the brain, without bias toward a certain brain region, lets researchers simulate brain-wide activity in the mouse (Marc-Oliver Gewaltig, abstract 515.05, see attached summary).
- Stem cell technology enables scientists to thoroughly characterize the molecular differences between healthy and diseased cells, which could lead to better-targeted treatments for neurological diseases (Clive Niels Svendsen, abstract 219.24, see attached summary.)
- Recordings from the brains of bats during flight reveal how they use echoes to map three-dimensional space and how sensory and motor information is integrated in the brain (Ninad Kothari, abstract 90.15, see attached summary).
“Recent innovations in technology, such as those described today, are revolutionizing neuroscience,” said Terry Sejnowski, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, moderator of the session and an expert in computational neuroscience. “Advanced models of the brain will allow us to better understand the brain in both health and disease, which will lead to more successful treatments in the future.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as other private and philanthropic organizations. Find out more about tools and technology in neuroscience research at BrainFacts.org.