back to article Brain boffins in cortex mapping breakthrough

Brain boffins at University College London have made a major breakthrough in the ongoing effort to bridge the gap between man and machine. The UCL research team has developed a technique for mapping both the connections and functions of nerve cells in the brain, as revealed by UCL News. "We are beginning to untangle the …

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  1. IglooDude

    Hmmm

    I'm surprised El Reg didn't translate into IPv4/6 speak the hundred billion neurons (25 times the number of addresses in IPv4) and one hundred fifty trillion synapses (some substantially smaller number than the available addresses in IPv6).

  2. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up

    See, now this is proper science.

    I, for one, welcome, our UCL tefal-heads. If they can connect me up to my server by the power of thought alone, I will be happy.

  3. Christoph
    Boffin

    Find out how they grow and connect

    Rather than trying to map everything it should be a lot easier to work out how the brain develops, and how the connections grow and are pruned.

    There's a lot less than 150 trillion proteins etc. used to grow the brain and to control how the wiring develops, it's *got* to be easier than mapping the result..

    1. dlc.usa

      Be Patient

      I expect at least one other team somewhere on the planet is working that angle.

    2. Displacement Activity

      NFTR

      Wouldn't be any use, as well as being completely impractical. You're basically suggesting a complete simulation of brain development from DNA onwards, which would require so much knowledge - of physics, chemistry, biochemistry - that it would effectively make the physical processes themselves redundant.

      Besides, even if you could perform this massive feat, you'd end up with nothing more than unprogrammed brain that had never been exposed to the real world.

      1. Dick Pountain

        Spot On

        Absolutely right. It's already known that though the brain's basics (like how to make a neuron) are encoded in DNA, it develops in each individual through a process of evolution driven by what you actually see, hear and feel during childhood - whole circuits get eliminated and replaced by others. There is no way to predict the structure of anyone's brain from their DNA alone, you'd need a record of every second of their life as well.

    3. Ru

      Re: Find out how they grow and connect

      Tricky things, emergent properties.

      We've a reasonably good idea about the workings of genetics and DNA, but still the issue of mapping a proteome and understanding protein folding is immensely complex; far more so than mapping a genome.

      I don't imagine that understanding brain function given some knowledge of protein folding is as easy as understanding protein folding given some knowledge of the structure and chemistry of DNA.

  4. Graham Marsden
    Coat

    Was one of the mice...

    ... called Algernon?

    I have some flowers here :-)

  5. peyton?
    Happy

    Computer model

    "...and massive computer processing power before it can be realised"

    Makes you feel kinda special.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Coat

      Max... Max Headroom

      Ok I'm going.....

  6. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Happy

    Next stop we all turn into the Daleks!

    They were a slave race bred to be "brains in wheeled boxes" weren't they? I'm not much a Who geek I must admit!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Cool

    That is some nifty research. It's even more complex with the brain being an analogue system. Each neuron has many synapses along its length than can modify the signal as it propagates down the dendrite. That's going to me damn hard to model.

    Lab mice are fickin stinky evil creatures. The rats can be very friendly and I always felt a bit sorry for them before killing them and harvesting their livers.

    1. Mako

      Re: Cool

      You know, I realise that animal testing is arguably for the common good.

      But every time I'm confronted with it, I can't help thinking that surely humans would be better, and provide more accurate results. It's not as though we we don't have high-walled buildings just full of them that we could use.

      1. DayDragon
        Boffin

        @Mako Re: Cool

        Human brains would be better to do tests on however it comes down to Ethics, Morals and the law preventing it from happening.... as well as the fact you'd have to find willing volunteers to have their heads cut open and their brains probed whilst you're doing your tests.

        Whilst i don't fully agree with taking another living (sentient) creatures life (apart from wasps) rodents are an abundant source of test material...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Moths

          They can do whatever they like with moths too. The more unethical the better.

  8. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Very cool but...

    ... i would have thought starting with an animal with a much smaller brain then mice would be a good start. Maybe something like an insect? Or perhaps a celebutard or two?

    I can imagine that whilst a mice's brain is small, as a mammal, it should be pretty well developed compared to say a beetle...

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