A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
At the convergence of biotechnology and nanotechnology, a new project to map the active human brain may eventually lead to an understanding of human perception and consciousness, as well as therapies for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism.
Hearing voices that are not there was once thought to be a core symptom of schizophrenia and signify severe mental illness. It has been increasingly acknowledged that people with no other symptoms of schizophrenia or psychosis do hear voices . There are several theories about what causes these auditory hallucinations. For example, there is good evidence that hearing voices can be linked to trauma . Attempting to understand the phenomenon is not only scientifically interesting but also relates to how society views people with these experiences and if and how they may be treated. A search for how these experiences are associated with brain function is ongoing. New research published in the journal Human Brain Mapping suggests that the predisposition to hearing voices may relate to abnormal functioning of the brain whilst at rest .
Mental illness, memory, perception: they’re made of neurons and electric signals. Henry Markram claims these mysteries of the mind can be solved — and soon. He is building a detailed, realistic computer model of the human brain and its one hundred trillion — that’s 100,000,000,000,000 — synapses.
Markram is the director of the Blue Brain Project at Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Founded in 2005 by the Brain and Mind Institute at the EPFL, Blue Brain is a supercomputing project that to study the brain’s architectural and functional principles, and reverse engineer it in order to understand brain function and dysfunction. Blue Brain can model components of the mammalian brain in precise cellular detail and simulate neuronal activity in 3D. Soon Blue Brain will be able to simulate a whole rat brain in real time.