The human brain contains an estimated 100 billion nerve cells (blue), as well as support cells known as glia (red and green). Neuroscientists are striving to understand how these cells are born, grow, connect and work together to give rise to our thoughts and actions. (Credit: NICHD/J. Cohen)
Neuroscience seeks to understand the most complex biological structure in the Universe, with an estimated 100 billion brain cells, or neurons, and trillions of connections between them. To make sense of the brain’s complexity, neuroscientists draw on expertise from numerous fields, including biology, physics and computer science, neurology, psychology and even philosophy. Some of the main questions they are trying to answer are: How does the brain, in which networks of cells course with electrical and chemical signals, give rise to the mind? How does the brain compute? How do we learn and remember (See "Memory")? What is the biological basis of language (See "Language")? And what causes psychiatric and neurological illnesses (See “Brain diseases & disorders”)?
Many neuroscientists feel the field is entering a new era, spurred by new technologies and techniques (See “Neurotechnology”) with which they can finally explore the working brain and begin to answer these questions. Hand in hand with this is a surge of interest in the field among graduate students, funding agencies as well as philanthropists and private enterprises. And, since 2013, a handful of big science project have launched to study the brain including the European Commission’s Human Brain Project to create a supercomputer simulation of the human brain and the U.S. Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (See “BRAIN Initiative”) to develop new brain research tools, along with smaller efforts in Japan, Israel and China.
Nicholas Spitzer discusses why, in a world increasingly dependent on the knowledge and principles of science, it is more important than ever for scientists to step out of the lab and engage the public.
How does the brain gather information from the outside world and use it to guide behavior? Three neuroscientists who have spent much of their research careers trying to answer that question were awarded the 2012 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience.
Recent research is beginning to answer these fundamental questions by exploring the plasticity of the adult brain—its ability to readily be shaped by experience. Contrary to the common assumption that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, there is increasingly strong evidence that the adult human brain is remarkably malleable and capable of new feats even in the last decades of life.
Kavli Institute directors Edvard and May-Britt Moser have just established the Norwegian Brain Centre at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. WIth its opening, the Centre becomes one of the largest of its kind worldwide.
Computers are the workhorses of science. Without their power to crunch numbers, control instruments, turn raw data into intelligible patterns or pictures and test theories with simulations, most of what we now know about ourselves and the universe might still be a mystery.
A new study of remarkable size and scope offers clues to how the human brain develops, from its early stages into old age. The landmark research found that gene expression in the human brain is exquisitely choreographed across developmental periods and brain regions.
Scientists and engineers are improving how social robots are able to help patients undergoing physical rehabilitation, act as teaching aides, work in nursing homes, and be used for other dynamic purposes.
The Kavli Foundation holds a roundtable to explore how advances in neuroscience are posing serious challenges for the judicial system, as well as possible solutions for the treatment of criminals. Participants in the discussion are Alan Leshner, Jay Giedd and Martha Farah.
Researchers are beginning to decipher what exactly happens in our brains when we are making decisions. Three experts in the field describe the genesis of this cutting-edge field and how it evolved to incorporate several disciplines, as well as current driving questions and potential practical applications of this research.