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Transformative Brain Projects
There are a couple new "transformative" brain projects that will begin soon. Neuroscience grants have been awarded to two people in order to further our understanding of how the mind functions.

Here's an excerpt about the first project connectome;
Mitra and colleagues, including Professor Harvey Karten of the University of California, San Diego, will use their “transformative” grant to produce the first brain-wide circuit diagram for the mouse, and using this as reference, attempt to determine alterations in the corresponding circuits of mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Below is an excerpt discussing the second project;
Josh Dubnau’s “transformative” project addresses an important gap in knowledge: about how this fundamental step in the conversion of genetic information -- its “translation” from RNA to protein -- is regulated in neurons, the ubiquitous cells of the brain whose dense web of connections underlie its capacity to perform sophisticated functions such as forming and storing memories.
There has also recently been talk about creating a complete connectome wiring diagram of the human brain. The NIH has aimed to do this within 5 years. A neuroscience blogger has shown skepticism about this. He thinks that the brain is far too complex and it will actually take much longer to get this diagram. I would partially disagree with his points. I believe it is important not to take an overly linear view of progress. Yes it seems like a daunting task. However, researchers are continuously creating better tools in order to acquire this type of data faster. I wouldn't argue that it will necessarily happen within 5 years, but I think the speed at which it occurs will be suprising.

Ray Kurzweil talks a lot about certain accelerating trends or (s-curves). Certain technologies don't progress in a linear rate, but much faster. In his book, Kurzweil gives an example;
"When the human-genome scan got under way in 1990 critics pointed out that given the speed with which the genome could then be scanned it would take thousands of years to finish the project. Yet the fifteen-year was completed slightly ahead of schedule, with a first draft in 2003.
Now the amount of people who have had their genome sequenced is probably going to increase at an exponential rate over the course of the next several years. It won't be long before everyone who wants to have their genome sequenced will be able to have it done. This has been happening because new tools have allowed for faster and cheaper sequencing of DNA. A main problem with Kurzweil is that he takes his accelerating trends analysis too far and tries to apply it to things where it doesn't work. Also these accelerating trends do end eventually, which Kurzweil doesn't spend enough time discussing. So while some of the points he makes are good, he is not necessarily the most reliable source. Overall, though, I think it is important to have a broader understanding of specific trends that exist in a variety of different fields. Many scientists/neuroscientists may have an overly narrow focus of what they study and it is difficult for any one person to keep abreast of developments in other fields. They may not be totally aware of scientific progress in unrelated disciplines, so they might underestimate what could be possible to do with technology and how fast it will occur.


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