Medicine: From Genome to Connectome – digging deeper into the body

by gwoodill on February 23, 2011

In the next 20-30 years, scientists will be able to map all of the connections in the brain and associate them with particular conditions or diseases. Just as we can now sequence the human genome, we are starting the process of mapping the human “connectome”, all of the neural connections in the brain. C. elegans, a tiny worm about one millimetre long, has a nervous system of 302 neurons, for which all 7000+ connections were mapped in 1986. It took 12 years to map the worm’s connectome.

Progress is being made on recording the function of a single neuron, and identifying all the presynaptic neurons that connect to it, as in the image on the right below (from Dr. Jeffrey Toney’s blog) :

While computing power continues to expand rapidly, it will take decades before we can map the human brain and see patterns in the connections. But, we are moving in that direction. In 2009, the Human Connectome Project was announced with $40 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Led by the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Martinos Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Washington University, and the University of Minnesota, its goal is to map the human brain. (See www.humanconnectome.org for details).

Bedazzled Neurons | Jeffrey Toney | Dean’s Corner | 23 February 2011

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