Body + Brain

28
Feb

Proposed Brain Map Faces Hurdles

John Markoff, writing for the New York Times:

In more than a century of scientific inquiry into the interwoven cells known as neurons that make up the brain, researchers acknowledge they are only beginning to scratch the surface of a scientific challenge that is certain to prove vastly more complicated than sequencing the human genome.

The Obama administration is hoping to announce as soon as next month its intention to assemble the pieces — and, even more challenging, the financing — for a decade-long research project that will have the goal of building a comprehensive map of the brain’s activity.

At present, scientists are a long way from doing so. Before they can even begin the process, they have to develop the tools to examine the brain. And before they develop tools that will work on humans, they must succeed in doing so in a number of simpler species — assuming that what they learn can even be applied to humans.

It’s a moonshot, to be sure, but then again so was the, um, moonshot and the human genome project. Sometimes breakthroughs require audacious plans.