Building a Circuit Diagram of the Brain

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Jennifer Raymond, an associate professor in neurobiology at Stanford University, is building a circuit diagram of the brain. By bridging the gap between individual synapses and whole brain learning and memory, her research is offering new insights and strategies for medical rehabilitation and education.

Raymond’s research aims to understand the functional changes that occur in the brain with learning or disease. In particular, her laboratory is working to establish the connections between changes in brain function occurring at different levels of organization; between genes and molecules, neurons and synapses, neural circuits, and behavior.

The last several decades of neuroscience research have yielded detailed descriptions of the individual processing units of the brain — neurons and synapses. Raymond wants to understand how these processing units shape the properties of neural circuits that allow us to perceive the world, to move, and to learn. To accomplish this, she is using genetic/molecular tools to manipulate specific neurons in a brain circuit in vivo. This approach enables her to systematically analyze how changes in specific genes or specific properties of individual neurons or synapses influence the computations performed by a neural a circuit to positively or negatively alter brain function.

In 2009, Stanford University offered a short mini-course called “The Future of Human Health: Seven Very Short Talks That Will Blow Your Mind” (videos of the course are also available on iTunes [1]. In it, Raymond delivers an engaging talk about the changes that occur in our brains when we learn and remember, and how an understanding of these neural circuits may lead to treatments for learning disabilities, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

References

  1. The Stanford Challenge: The Future of Human Health. Stanford University. Accessed 2011 Mar 16
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.