Articles in this special edition:
Nivanthika K. Wimalasena
From the editors:
The human brain may be “the last frontier.” It is unknown, mysterious, puzzling. It has billions of neurons and trillions of connections between them; it gives rise to the enormous complexities of thought, language, and emotion. It is everything about who we are inside, yet we know so little about it.
We know so little about it – but that is changing fast. This special edition covers recent technologies that are pushing the boundaries of what we know about the brain. We can see neurons in ever-more-detailed magnificence; we can use light to directly control brain activity. Brain images can be analyzed by computer algorithms to predict the development of psychiatric diseases; other computer algorithms have learned to outsmart us. We can turn skin cells into neurons, and study how specific mutations alter a cell’s function or the brain’s structure.
These advances have caught the attention of public policy makers across the globe, including here in the United States. The BRAIN Initiative is helping create new tools to investigate the brain; next, it will help researchers develop strategies to treat it. In addition to describing BRAIN Initiative-funded research, we’ve spoken to one of the BRAIN Initiative’s advisors about its goals and what we can reasonably expect it to achieve.
The impact of neuroscience is not limited to the ivory tower of academia. In a given year, about one quarter of US adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. These diseases are among the most debilitating and painful for individuals and their families, and we lack effective treatments. Once we better understand the complexities of the brain, the hope is that we can begin to solve these problems.
Today, we are closer to this frontier than ever before. Each of the articles in this special edition describes how new technologies have already impacted neuroscience and where these technologies are taking us next. With the potential to improve countless lives, the future of neuroscience is bright and will only get brighter.
April 6th, 2016.
Science in the News Editorial Staff
Special thanks to…
The editing team: Eryn Blass, Alix Chan, Vivian Chou, Morgan Furze, Mary Gearing, Alexis Hubaud, Susi Jakob, Nick Jikomes, Adam Riesselman, Jessica Sagers, Yutong Shan, Aditi Shukla, Kevin Sitek, Lindsay Theodore, Kelsey Tyssowski, and Katherine Wu
The graphic editors: Tito Adhikary, Kaitlyn Choi, Michael Gerhardt, Krissy Lyon, Anna Maurer, Shannon McArdel, Daniel Utter, and Bradley Wierbowski