Neuroscience

Brain cellsThe 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.

Mountain Climbing Brain Scientist Sees Parallels Between His Two Passions

Jul 05, 2011
Rafael Yuste

Rafael Yuste likens scientific research to mountain climbing. Assemble a skilled team, get the best equipment, map the route and proceed with slow, deliberate steps. 

The Brain and the Public: Q&A with Susan G. Amara, President, the Society for Neuroscience

May 10, 2011

Susan G. Amara, President of the Society for Neuroscience, responds in-depth to questions about Brainfacts.org, the Society's anticipated new public website about brain research, and how SfN’s own efforts at outreach have evolved since its inception.

Communicating Science: Television Producer, Director, Writer Sarah Holt

May 09, 2011

Sarah Holt discusses her award-winning documentary, “How Memory Works,” which vividly introduced NOVA’s viewers to how researchers are uncovering the complex chemistry behind the way our brains store and retrieve memories.

The Future of Computing, from Extreme to Green

Aug 18, 2010

In September, 2010, leading scientists across several disciplines will gather for the next Kavli Futures Symposium to discuss what science needs from computing. In advance of this meeting, four of the participants discuss those needs, how current computing advances are impacting research, and how the future of computing is not only looking extreme and green, but is moving closer to how the brain computes.

Tobias Bonhoeffer on the Adaptive Brain in Action

Jun 29, 2010

Armed with new imaging methods such as two-photon microscopy, Tobias Bonhoeffer, director of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsreid, Germany, is a leading researcher on how the brain adapts to its environment.

Smart Moves: Daniel Wolpert, Motor Control and the Brain

Mar 10, 2010

Whether engaged in a chess game or something less obvious, the brain is constantly thinking. Daniel Wolpert, a professor of engineering at the University of Cambridge, admits that a game of chess is an excellent demonstration of the brain at work.

Using Nanoscale Technologies to Understand and Replicate the Human Brain

Jan 19, 2010

Recently, neuroscientist and KIBM Co-Director Nicholas Spitzer led a conversation with two nanoscience pioneers.

Morality and the Social Brain

Oct 19, 2009

Earlier this year, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) held a 10-week graduate seminar on the neuroscience behind moral decision-making. 

Understanding Our Sense of Place

Nov 29, 2008

Among the vast store of memories we carry around in our heads, there is a large and crucial collection of maps. Most of these have little to do with geography in the usual sense; they’re more like road maps to our everyday surroundings.

Babies, Birds and Words

Jun 08, 2008

Human infants learn to talk and starlings learn to sing, but just how different are the two? The answer on one level is obvious. 

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