Explore the Mind Map
They want to do this until they have a complete map of the brain. There is even a scientific field for this activity, and it is called connectomics. There are not too many scientists who are doing it, because it is in the early stages, but it is considered to be one of the most promising future fields in science. The scientists, who are involved in it, consider it to be just as important as the works done in the field of genetics. The scientists have stated that they want to find out more about the human genomes, but they want to find out information about the way in which the memories, the skills, and personality traits are being stored in the brain. H. Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that this might be possible, as we are born with the same genes, and they do not change. He believes that the conctome are those genes with which we were born, but which have matured, and which might have stored the experiences we have gathered during our lifetime.
The scientists who are engaged in this activity know that their work might be fruitless, and they acknowledge the fact that, years will pass until they will be able to find some results to their work. It seems that they are not the only ones who are confident in this domain, as there were many institutes which donated them money. The scientists from University of California, Los Angeles, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Minnesota, and Harvard received $40 millions from the National Institutes of Health, in order to obtain much more information from their research. The scientists were able to analyze the connectomes since 1970, but the connectome belonged to a worm, which had only 300 neurons. Currently they are using the connectome of a mouse which has 100 million neurons, so the transition has been made very swiftly. They did not try to examine the human brain, because they know that the task is currently impossible. The human brain has 100 billion neurons, and creating a map of all the processes which take place in the brain would be very difficult, if not impossible.
First they would like to analyze the situation at a microscopic level, to find out where each of the neurons connect inside the brain, as they believe that that might offer plenty of answers for them. The process of collecting the entire information about the brain would be very difficult, as the scientists would have to collect lots of data. In order to collect data from one millimeter cube of brain from the mouse, a petabyte is required. In the case of computers, 40 billion photos would take up that much memory. Dr. Lichtman said that they are not prepared yet to complete the process, but he promised that they will be in the immediate future. The neuroscientists believe that finding out more about the map of the mind will be very important, as they might use this information in order to take care of certain diseases of the brain. The doctors might find out more about the wiring of the brain, and they might compare the mind of an ill person with the mind of a normal person, from this point of view. He also stated that the surgeons might be able to perform more complicated operations if they would have more information about the brain. Stanley Klein, who is a professor of optometry and vision science at the University of California, Berkeley, stated that the surgeons will be able to remove exactly the regions of the brain which they need to remove, for example such in the case of the people who suffer from epilepsy, and who need to have only the white matter removed.
However, there are many scientists who believe that this approach is useless, as they do not believe that they will be able to come with the promised discoveries. They believe that money and time are being wasted on a project which does not have a chance of producing any valuable results. Bradley Voytek, who is a researcher at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, stated that there are many people who are against them, as they do not believe that they have the capacity of creating a detailed map of the brain. He believes that it is possible, and he is doing his best in order to prove them wrong. The critics say that even if they will manage to create a detailed map of the brain, the map will be useless, because it will present pictures of the brain, without showing the activity of the brain. The stimuli will not be presented in the brain, and without them, the map is useless. It’s like trying to look at a security cam which only shows you a picture taken 2 days ago. It does not make sense, as one can not see what is going on at the current moment. Despite of the criticism, the scientists are ready to move on, and they will do it, as they are convinced that their researches would prove to be very valuable for the entire scientific community.
It seems that Dr. Lichtman is more motivated than anyone in order to find out information about the map of the brain. He has even set up a partial laboratory at his home, where he and his other three colleagues can work in order to reach their target. Kenneth J. Hayworth is one of his colleagues, and he has created a machine which can slice the brain of the mice in 29.4 nanometers. The machine uses a diamond knife blade, and so far it has proven to be very effective. The slices are very thin, and the scientists have stated that this is the only way in which they are able to obtain information about the mind map. There are two ways in which they can map the slices, as they can use a machine to do the job of placing them under the microscope, or they can individually take every slice in order to place it under the microscope. Regardless of the method, the outcome is fascinating, and the images of the brain are very beautiful. Just like in the case of the real maps, the scientists offer legends, placing specific colors for specific brain cells. Thanks to that, they are able to follow the map with a greater ease, and thanks to their computers they can zoom in and out of the map, and they can also turn around the images.
The scientists are able to carve out about 7,000 sections of the cerebral cortex of the mouse in about three days. That is very slow, and Dr. Lichtman admitted that they might not be able to provide an accurate and full map of the mouse brain until after several years. He is convinced that certain technologies which would slow down the required time for the operation would be developed. However, he admits that creating a detailed map of the human brain might take decades, and that he might not live when that task would be accomplished. Gary S. Lynch, who is a brain researcher at the University of California, Irvine, stated that this is the way in which they will be able to find out more about the human brain, and about the processes which take place inside of it. He believes that by being able to see the exact connections which take place inside of the brain, they will be able to find out more about the way in which the memory is stored, about the way in which certain processes take place in the brain, and so on. He is convinced that the mind map will be able to present the way in which the brain is wired, and he is convinced that they might use this information in order to make the distinction between the healthy and the ill individuals. He is convinced that the ones who have mental illnesses do not have the same neuron wiring as the healthy people. It is unknown if they will ever come up with something, but currently, the entire scientific community is eager to see the results which they have come up with.11