Connectome: Uniting people and machines to map the mind

June 1st, 2012
On Wednesday, June 6, 2012 Kavli Prize recipient Winfried Denk and long-time collaborator Sebastian Seung will discuss their groundbreaking, Internet- and game-based German-U.S. effort to map the connectome. The panel discussion will take place at the German Center for Research and Innovation New York.

According to a doctrine known as connectionism, the properties of the human mind, from memories to mental disorders, are encoded in a distinctive pattern of neural connections, which contribute to a person's uniqueness. For years, connectionism has inspired a new generation of scientists to search for the connectome, a map of links between a brain's neurons. A trained physicist turned neuroscientist, Prof. Seung now claims that every individual is his or her connectome. He has founded Wired Differently, an online citizen science community which enlists volunteers from the general public to map connectomes by analyzing neural images via an online gaming experience. The German-U.S. collaboration Eyewire, which is built around datasets derived from the two-photon and scanning elctron microscopy co-invented by Prof. Denk, is WiredDifferently's first project. With the goal of mapping the neural connections of the retina, Eyewire volunteers trace neuron branches through images of brain scans by playing a simple online game, helping the computer to color a neuron as if the images were part of a three-dimensional coloring book.

German physicist and neuroscientist Winfried Denk revolutionized the high resolution imaging of cells inside tissues. In order to better follow neural connections, he co-developed two-photon microscopy and contributed to the invention of serial block-face scanning electron microscopy that allows the tracking of neural processes across long distances. Yesterday, he was announced a 2012 Kavli Prize Laureate in Neuroscience. He is sharing the prize with Cornelia Bargman (Rockefeller University) and Ann Graybiel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Prof. Denk has been the Director of the Biomedical Imaging Department at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, since 2000. His collaboration with Prof. Seung dates back to 2006.

Sebastian Seung is the author of the recently published book Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, "the best lay book on brain science" according to the Wall Street Journal. He is Professor of Computational Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jim Sharp, the President of Carl Zeiss Microscopy, LLC, and CEO of Carl Zeiss, Inc., will moderate the event. Carl Zeiss has been providing microscopy solutions to scientists and researchers for over 160 years.

The discussion will take place on Wednesday, June 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the German House New York (871 United Nations Plaza, First Avenue, btw. 48th & 49th Streets). To RSVP by June 4, click here: https://secure.jotformpro.com/form/21375383494965

Follow the discussion live on Twitter @gcri_ny (hashtag #connectome).

Unable to attend? A video recording will be available on www.germaninnovation.org shortly after the event.

Provided by German Center for Research and Innovation

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