Heller Lecture Series - Jun. 09th 2009

Heller Lecture Series in Computational Neuroscience


Prof. Mark Ellisman

Director of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, University of California San Diego, USA 


 On the topic of

Integrating neuroscience knowledge: Brain research in the digital age



A grand goal in neuroscience research is to understand how the interplay of structural, chemical and electrical signals in nervous tissue gives rise to behavior. We are rapidly approaching this horizon as neuroscientists make use of an increasingly powerful arsenal for obtaining data, from the level of molecules to nervous systems, and engage in the arduous and challenging process of adapting and assembling neuroscience data at all scales of resolution and across disciplines into computerized databases. The need for a scalable and available knowledge environment for the neurosciences has captured the attention of many who now work at the hybrid interface of neuroscience and information sciences – sometimes called "neuroinformatics". This talk will highlight some of the tools and data available today, illustrating what tomorrow's neuroscientists might expect from neuroinformatics in an era in which scientific discoveries will hinge increasingly on the development and use of telecommunications and information technology. 

A consolidated strategy for integrating neuroscience data has been to provide a multi-scale structural or spatial scaffold on which existing and accruing elements of neuroscience knowledge can be located and relationships explored from any network-linked computer. However, even data taken at similar scales from different sites, like structural and functional MRI data, are difficult to merge in the absence of agreed upon standards that would allow such non-invasive brain imaging data to be brought together. Similarly, efforts to integrate multi-scale data from different methods using a common spatial framework are hampered by incomplete descriptions of the microscopic anatomy of nervous systems. While some spatial and temporal scales are well studied and described, there are many domains where current methods have provided only sparse descriptions. Progress toward overcoming these obstacles and integrating neuroscience knowledge will be highlighted using examples from activities of key projects, including those intended to foster large-scale collaborations in neuroscience by building up an open global neuroscience information network to help connect researchers and bridge between laboratories where new knowledge about the brain is being obtained.


ICNC lecture hall (Silverman Bldg., Wing 3, 6th floor - Edmond J. Safra Campus)