Jansing and Co | February 20, 2013
>>> the obama administration is hoping to launch a ground breaking $3 billion project to map the human brain . research that could lead to breakthroughs in treatment for autism, schizophrenia and ep leps. in the state of the union address , the president mentioned brain research as an example to invest in the best ideas.
>> every dollar we invested returned $140 to our economy. today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to alz himers. now is not the time to gut the investment, now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race . we need to make those investments.
>> i'm joined by columbia professor of neuroscience, one of the few select scientists who will appear at the white house next month and talk about what's called a brain activity map. fascinating stuff. thanks for being here, professor.
>> you're welcome.
>> what exactly does it mean to map the brain?
>> so, this is the human brain . it is the most sophisticated and complex piece of matter in the universe. and there's a 100 billion nerons, connected in ways wez don't understand and firing away in patterns and they create our minds and creates what we are, our thoughts and memories and most of our muscles and our whole personality. what we want to do is build instruments to go in there and watch those patterns.
>> what kinds of things would you find? what would you be looking for?
>> coordinated activity of hundreds of neurons across the brain in laboratory animals and hopefully humans too, to decipher what these patterns mean and how they create cognition.
>> learn how it works, understand disease as well, right?
>> exactly. you cannot fix a machine until you understand how it works. so we're motivated by mental disease and neurological diseases and like to find out the pathowe fizz yoelg, what's wrong with these brains.
>> obviously this was part of the president's big push. what most likely are the kinds of diseases that could be helped, the research to cure or to treat diseases by doing this mapping?
>> for example, epilepsy, if we build the types of new devices to image how epilepsy spreads through the brain, we'll understand what neurons are defective and how we can rechannel the activity to stop seizures and schizophrenia, same thing, what are the patterns of activity in the brain pressing a schizophrenic patient that are abnormal. and another example paralyzed patients, can we build devices that stimulate the neurons and tackle them to computers to move artificial limbs.
>> you think less likely in the short term and we're talking years, even, short term.
>> alz himer's, park insons more difficult?
>> they could be profoundly affected by the development particularly because we can build probes that are sensitive to particular molecules that are generated in als himer's disease and parkinson's and we can make a map of the patient's brains as well.
>> i remember a steven spielberg movie called a.i. how would this play into it?
>> if we can figure out how the brain works, this would be inspiring for science and technology in general and could create a new types of computers and electronic circuits that would be buy logically inspired and copying the tricks nature has put in our brains and brains of mammals and animals and try to get that into the technology. that's what the person was referring to, partly in terms of generation of new jobs and industrial avenues for the country for the world.
>> doctor, congratulations about being chosen as one of the few to go to the white house . good look on your work. thank you so much.