I’ve started watching the “Synapses, Neurons and Brains” course, from Coursera.org, with Idan Segev and Guy Eyal. The course presents current “brain-excitements” worldwide and acquaints students with the operational principles of neuronal “life-ware”. It also highlights how neurons behave as computational microchips and they constantly change.
There are 9 lessons over 10 weeks. The first lesson was about “Brain Excitements for the 21st Century” and it presented some current projects like: the Connectomics, the Brainbow, Brain-Machine/Computer Interfaces’ concepts and challenges, Optogenetics, and the simulation of the brain – The Blue Brain Project.
The lesson provided a lot of references for future research (projects and researchers) and introduced interesting facts and concepts. Regarding my Nerve Gear research, the Connectomics and BMI/BCI projects seemed to be coupled tightly with my goals. And the challenges introduced in the BMI section are part of my future work, or so I hope.
The Connectomics project aims to create a complete 3D reconstruction of the brain, a “blue print”, which can connect the structure to the behaviour/function of the brain, and enable realistic computer simulations.
The Brainbow projects aims to create a structural basis for learning in the brain, allowing us to know how the brain learns in real-time; it also aims to tag and create a genetic-characterisation of the different cell-types; finally, it aims to trace short and long range connections in brain circuits.
Brain-Machine Interfaces will be covered in future lessons as well as in different posts, since its the main focus of this Nerve Gear research. Regarding the challenges introduced in this lesson, there are: (1) Develop chronic brain nano-probes; (2) Develop telemetric communication with the brain; (3) Develop real-time multi signal processing methods; and (4) Improving robotic arm and “Closing the loop” Stimulation + recording.
The Optogenetics project aims to optically stimulate and record the activity from single neurons in the living brain, using genetically modified cells that react to light variation.
Finally, the Blue Brain Project is a computer simulation of neuronal circuits that aims to integrate anatomical and physiological data to provide a better “understanding” of the brain, using the “Blue-Gene” IBM Computer to create mathematical models of neurons’ spiking activity, connect model components as in real cortical circuits, and simulate electrical activity.
Next lesson will be about “The Materialistic Mind – Your Brain’s Ingredients”.