UCSD scientists tackle brain mapping

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SAN DIEGO – Dr. Ralph Greenspan and his team at the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind in San Diego are doing trailblazing research in brain mapping, a project the White House recently said they will be devoting billions of dollars towards.

brain mappingPresident Obama mentioned brain research in his State of the Union address and the New York Times reports the White House will move forward with a massive Brain Activity Map project similar to the Human Genome Project.

The government devoted about $300 million a year to research for a decade for the Human Genome Project.

The Brain Activity Map project would produce the first detailed map of how signals move through the human brain at a cellular level in real time.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to observe the fly brain under normal circumstances,” assistant project scientist Takeo Katsuki said.

Greenspan said understanding how the brain works at this level could lead to breakthroughs in autism, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.

“Just as in the case of the genome which gave us a complete view of what all of our genes are, it’s going to make it possible for us to make sense of how it all works,” Greenspan said. “If we understand what goes on normally, than we can get a better idea [of what to do] when we do something to treat it.”

Before scientists at the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind can take on a big project like that, they have to start small.  Right now, they can only get crude images.

The project could also be an incredible economic engine, the Human Genome Project created an entirely new industry and every dollar spent returned $140 to the economy.

President Obama is expected to release more details about the project when he presents his budget in March.

brain mapping