In the human brain, 86 billion neurons form more than 100 trillion connections with other neurons at junctions called synapses. Scientists at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research are working with their collaborators to develop technologies to map these connections across the brain, from mice to humans.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced a new program to support research projects that have the potential to reveal an unprecedented and dynamic picture of the connected networks in the brain. Four of these NIH-funded research projects will take place in McGovern Institute labs.
In 2013, the Obama administration announced the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative (BRAIN), a public-private research effort to support the development and application of new technologies to understand brain function.
On Sept. 26, NIH announced its third project supported by the BRAIN Initiative, called BRAIN Initiative Connectivity Across Scales (BRAIN CONNECTS). The new project complements two previous large-scale projects, which together aim to transform neuroscience research by generating wiring diagrams that can span entire brains across multiple species. These detailed wiring diagrams can help uncover the logic of the brain’s neural code, leading to a better understanding of how this circuitry makes us who we are and how it could be rewired to treat brain diseases.
BRAIN CONNECTS at MIT
The initial round of BRAIN CONNECTS awards will support researchers at more than 40 university and research institutions across the globe with 11 grants totaling $150 million over five years. Four of these grants have been awarded to MIT researchers affiliated with the McGovern Institute. They are:
Guoping Feng, professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of the McGovern Institute;
Ila Fiete, professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of the McGovern Institute;
Satra Ghosh, principal research scientist at the McGovern Institute; and
Ian Wickersham, principal research scientist at the McGovern Institute.
In addition, Xiao Wang of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard joins Feng and Wickersham on one of the projects.