Human biologists, computer scientists and engineers are teaming to advance neuroscience toward achieving yet another one of NAE’s Grand Challenges, namely, understanding the complex network we call brain. Modern noninvasive methods can simultaneously measure the activity of many brain cells. Comprehension of how the brain works will enable engineers to simulate its activities, leading to deeper insights about how and why the brain works and fails. This will offer more precise methods for testing potential biotechnology solutions to brain disorders, such as drugs or neural implants. Neurological disorders may someday be circumvented by technological innovations that allow wiring of new materials into our bodies to do the jobs of lost or damaged nerve cells. Implanted electronic devices could help victims of dementia to remember, blind people to see, and crippled people to walk.
One exciting line of research in this area is the reverse engineering of the brain with the key objective of deciphering details of the brain’s secret communication code. Nerve cells communicate by firing electrical pulses that release small molecules called neurotransmitters. These are chemical messengers that hop from one nerve cell to a neighbor, inducing the neighbor to fire a signal of its own or, alternatively, inhibiting the neighbor from sending signals. Because each nerve cell receives messages from tens of thousands of others, and circuits of nerve cells link up in complex networks, it is extremely difficult to completely trace the signaling pathways.
The upcoming lecture is dedicated to understanding the brain – an organ that has 100 billion neurons, weighs about 3 pounds and uses nearly 20% of all the oxygen taken into the body.
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|Date:||Thursday, April 24, 2014|
|Time:||5:00-5:30 pm||Registration and Networking|
|5:30-7:00 pm||Panel of Experts / Audience Q & A|
|Location:||The Pointe, Walter Pyramid at CSULB|