We have long wanted to create a neuron-by-neuron map of the brain’s circuitry to give us a 3-D glimpse into its connections are, how they work and how the different parts of the brain talk to one another. This is called “reverse engineering the brain” and is one of the Holy Grails of artificial intelligence and brain research. Unfortunately, we are many decades from being able to understand the entire brain at the neural level. With all our medical advances, it is proving difficult to understand all the neural hook-ups of a fruit fly brain, let alone a human brain. But recently, a new promising step is being taken, compliments of MRI research.
A new project, dubbed “The Human Connectome,” will take five years and cost $30 Million, will map out approximately 100 billion neurons and 150 trillion synapses. The study will include the work of 33 experts and 1,200 study participants at nine different institutions.
This massive and complex undertaking will finally give us the first (rough) map of the brain’s neural network which computational neuroscientist H. Sebastian Seung says is one of the most technological and computational challenges of all time. With this (rough) map, we will be able to further determine what goes on in the brain of someone that is affected by autism, Alzheimer’s disease or even psychological disorders like schizophrenia. We will finally be able to view misfires, bad or missing connections or even a bad-rewire after the brain has been damaged.