BRAIN 2015 Digest – 3/23 to 3/27/15

Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society

Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society is the second volume of the Bioethics Commission’s two-part response to President Obama’s request related to the BRAIN Initiative.

In this report, the Bioethics Commission broadly focused its analysis on three particularly controversial topics that illustrate the ethical tensions and societal implications of advancing neuroscience and technology: cognitive enhancement, consent capacity, and neuroscience and the legal system.

Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society

Brain Mapping

Taking genetics out of optogenetics

Light can be used to activate normal, non-genetically modified neurons through the use of targeted gold nanoparticles—a new technique that could hold promise for treating diseases such as macular degeneration.

“Many optogenetic experimental designs can now be applied to completely normal tissues or animals, greatly extending the scope of these research tools and possibly allowing for new therapies involving neuronal photostimulation.”

Neuron 2015.02.033

Funtionalized heated gold nanoparticles are not washed away, allowing them to serve a neural stimulators (credit: Joa˜ o L. Carvalho-de-Souza/Neuron)

Funtionalized heated gold nanoparticles are not washed away, allowing them to serve a neural stimulators (credit: Joa˜ o L. Carvalho-de-Souza/Neuron)

 

Brain Maps

Allen Brain Atlases

The Allen Mouse and Human Brain Atlases are projects within the Allen Institute for Brain Science which seek to combine genomics with neuroanatomy by creating gene expression maps for the mouse and human brain.

Seven brain atlases have been published: Mouse Brain Atlas, Human Brain Atlas, Developing Mouse Brain Atlas, Developing Human Brain Atlas, Mouse Connectivity Atlas, Non-Human Primate Atlas, and Mouse Spinal Cord Atlas. The atlases are free and available for public use online.

Image from Allen Brain Atlas home page

Image from Allen Brain Atlas home page

Grants

Establishing a Comprehensive and Standardized Cell Type Characterization Platform

The BRAIN Initiative
Census of Cell Types (RFA MH-14-215)
Hongkui Zeng, Allen Institute for Brain Science

Dr. Zeng’s group will characterize cell types in brain circuits controlling sensations, such as vision and emotions, as a first step to better understand information processing across circuits. The data generated will be posted as a public online resource for the scientific community.

Establishing a Comprehensive and Standardized Cell Type Characterization Platform The BRAIN Initiative Census of Cell Types (RFA MH-14-215) Hongkui Zeng, Allen Institute for Brain Science Dr. Zeng’s group will characterize cell types in brain circuits controlling sensations, such as vision and emotions, as a first step to better understand information processing across circuits. The data generated will be posted as a public online resource for the scientific community.

Dr. Zeng’s group will characterize cell types in brain circuits controlling sensations, such as vision and emotions, as a first step to better understand information processing across circuits. The data generated will be posted as a public online resource for the scientific community.

Next generation high-throughput random access imaging, in vivo

The BRAIN Initiative
Large-Scale Recording-Modulation – Optimization (RFA NS-14-008)
Elly Nedivi -Nedivi Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Nedivi’s team proposes a new imaging technology to simultaneously record activity at each of the thousands of synapses, or communication points, on a single neuron.

Next generation high-throughput random access imaging, in vivo

Vertically integrated approach to visual neuroscience: microcircuits to behavior

Understanding Neural Circuits (RFA NS-14-009)
Hyunjune Sebastian Seung, Princeton University

Dr. Seung and colleagues will use state-of-the-art genetic, electrophysiological, and imaging tools to map the connectivity of the retina, the light-sensing tissue in the eye. The goal is to delineate all the retina’s neural circuits and define their specific roles in visual perception and behavior.Vertically integrated approach to visual neuroscience: microcircuits to behavior

Calcium sensors for molecular fMRI

The BRAIN Initiative
Large-Scale Recording-Modulation – New Technologies (RFA NS-14-007)
Alan Jasanoff – Jasanoff Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Jasanoff’s team will synthesize calcium-sensing contrast agents that will allow functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to reveal activity of individual brain cells.Calcium sensors for molecular fMRI

Ultra-Multiplexed Nanoscale In Situ Proteomics for Understanding Synapse Types

Tools for Cells and Circuits (RFA MH-14-216)
Edwards S. Boyden, Director of the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Boyden’s team will simultaneously image both the identities and locations of multiple proteins within individual synapses – made possible by a new technique called DNA-PAINT.

 DNA-PAINT super-resolution image of microtubules inside a fixed HeLa cell using Atto 655–labeled imager strands (10,000 frames, 10-Hz frame rate). Inset, labeling and imaging schematic for DNA-PAINT in a cellular environment. From Neuron doi:10.1038/nmeth.2835

DNA-PAINT super-resolution image of microtubules inside a fixed HeLa cell using Atto 655–labeled imager strands (10,000 frames, 10-Hz frame rate). Inset, labeling and imaging schematic for DNA-PAINT in a cellular environment. From Neuron doi:10.1038/nmeth.2835

Principal Investigators

Hongkui Zeng

Zeng leads the Allen Institute Research and Development program to explore novel technologies and develop high-throughput paradigms for generating large-scale, public datasets and tools to fuel neuroscience discovery.

Hongkui Zeng has broad scientific experience and a keen interest in using a combined molecular, genetic and physiological approach to unravel mechanisms of brain circuitry and potential approaches for treating brain diseases.

Hongkui Zeng

Elly Nedivi

Professor of Brain & Cognitive Sciences and Biology

The Nedivi lab, part of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, studies the cellular mechanisms that underlie activity-dependent plasticity in the developing and adult brain through studies of neuronal structural dynamics, identification of the participating genes, and characterization of the proteins they encode.Elly Nedivi

Alan Jasanoff

Alan Jasanoff is an associate member of the McGovern Institute and Associate Professor of Biological Engineering, with appointments in Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Nuclear Science and Engineering.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revolutionized our understanding of the human brain, but the method is now approaching the limit of its capabilities. Alan Jasanoff hopes to break through this limit and to develop new technologies for imaging the molecular and cellular phenomena that underlie brain function.Alan Jasanoff with model

Robert Desimone

Doris and Don Berkey Professor of Neuroscience
Director, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Robert Desimone studies the brain mechanisms that allow us to focus our attention on a specific task while filtering out irrelevant distractions. Our brains are constantly bombarded with sensory information. The ability to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant distractions is a critical skill, one that is impaired in many brain disorders.Robert Dismone

Sebastian Seung, PhD

Professor, Computer Science Department and Princeton Neuroscience Instiute; Principal Investigator, Seung Lab; Organizer, EyeWire

Seung is a multi-disciplinary expert whose research efforts have spanned the fields of neuroscience, artificial intelligence. physics and bioinformatics. His TED talk “I am my connectome” has been viewed more than 600,000 times. His book Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are is considered by some as “the best lay book on brain science I’ve ever read.” Seung is also the organizer of the Citizens Science project/game called EyeWire.Sebastian Seung

Ed Boyden, PhD

Ed Boyden develops new strategies for analyzing and engineering brain circuits to develop broadly applicable methodologies that reveal fundamental mechanisms of complex brain processes.

Boyden uses synthetic biology, nanotechnology, chemistry, electrical engineering, and optics. A major goal of his current work is the development of technologies for controlling nerve cells using light – a powerful new technology known as optogenetics that is opening the door to new treatments for conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and mood disorders.

Ed Boyden in his lab

Labs

Nedivi Lab

Plasticity is a prominent feature of brain development, and in the adult underlies learning and memory and adaptive reorganization of sensory maps.

The Nedivi lab, part of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, studies the cellular mechanisms that underlie activity-dependent plasticity in the developing and adult brain through studies of neuronal structural dynamics, identification of the participating genes, and characterization of the proteins they encode.Nedivi Lab

Seung Lab, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

The Seung Lab uses techniques from machine learning and social computing to extract brain structure from light and electron microscopic images.

EyeWire showcases our approach by mobilizing gamers from around the world to create 3D reconstructions of neurons by interacting with a deep convolutional network. The Seung Lab also develops computational methods for relating brain structure to function. Seung Lab is best known for our work on the reconstruction of neural circuits using serial electron microscopy.Seung Lab Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Jasanoff Lab

Jasanoff Lab is developing a new generation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods to study the neural mechanisms of behavior.

The Lab’s focus is on the design and application of new contrast agents that may help define spatiotemporal patterns of neural activity with far better precision and resolution than current techniques allow. Experiments using the new agents will combine the specificity of cellular neuroimaging with the whole brain coverage and noninvasiveness of conventional fMRI.Jasanoff Lab

Desimone Laboratory

Desimone is interested in how the brain deals with the challenge of information overload. Just as our world buzzes with distractions, the neurons in our brain are constantly bombarded with messages.

Some messages contain relevant information, but many do not. By studying the visual system of humans and animals, Desimone has shown that relevant information is selectively amplified in certain brain regions, while irrelevant information is suppressed. One reason this happens is that neurons whose activity reflects the relevant information become synchronized with one another.Desimone Laboratory

Synthetic Neurobiology Group

The Synthetic Neurobiology Group develops tools that enable the mapping of the molecules and wiring of the brain, the recording and control of its neural dynamics, and the repair of its dysfunction.

The Synthetic Neurobiology Group distributes its tools as freely as possible to the scientific community, and also applies them to the systematic analysis of brain computations, aiming to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of brain function, and yielding new, ground-truth therapeutic strategies for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Optogenetics: molecules enabling neural control by light. From SBG website.

Optogenetics: molecules enabling neural control by light. From SBG website.

NIH

NINDS

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

NINDS supports and performs basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research; funds and conducts research training and career development programs to increase basic, translational and clinical neuroscience expertise; and promotes the timely dissemination of scientific discoveries and their implications for neurological health to the public, health professionals, researchers, and policy-makers.

Phase II of the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center [PNRC II] is the second part of a previously planned 600,000 gross square feet biomedical research facility located along the western campus edge of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The first part or Phase I, which represents approximately 45% of the facility, was completed in 2004 and is now fully occupied by a variety of scientists from different Institutes, working in collaboration in an array of research laboratories, animal care facilities, imaging suites, offices, and associated support facilities

Phase II of the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center [PNRC II] is the second part of a previously planned 600,000 gross square feet biomedical research facility located along the western campus edge of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The first part or Phase I, which represents approximately 45% of the facility, was completed in 2004 and is now fully occupied by a variety of scientists from different Institutes, working in collaboration in an array of research laboratories, animal care facilities, imaging suites, offices, and associated support facilities

Partners

Allen Institute for Brain Science

Allen Institute’s mission is to accelerate the understanding of how the human brain works in health and disease. Allen has been a major catalyst and facilitator of The BRAIN Initiative.

Launched in 2003 with a seed contribution from founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, the Allen Institute takes on large-scale initiatives designed to push brain research forward, enabling the global scientific community to more efficiently make discoveries that bring real-world utility.

Allen Institute for Brain Science. New Building scheduled for Fall 2015 completion.

Allen Institute for Brain Science. New Building scheduled for Fall 2015 completion.

MIT Neuroscience

MIT has numerous academic and research programs related to neuroscience. Key institutions include the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Department of Biological Engineering, and the MIT Media Lab.

Important neuroscience related centers include: Center for Neurobiological Engineering (CNBE); McGovern Institute Neurotechnology (MINT) program; Simons Center for the Social Brain (SCSB); Synthetic Biology Center;Picower Center for Learning and Memory; and the Martinos Imaging Center at MIT.

Brain and Cognitive Science Centre. 400,000 square feet facilty devoted to neuroscience.

Brain and Cognitive Science Centre. 400,000 square feet facilty devoted to neuroscience.

Princeton Neuroscience Institute

The Institute places particular emphasis on the close connection between theory, modeling and experimentation using the most advanced technologies.

Jon Cohen and David Tank serve as co-directors of the Institute. They view the Institute as a stimulus for teaching and research in neuroscience and related fields, as well as an impetus for collaboration and education in disciplines as wide ranging as economics and philosophy. Princeton collaborators come from an array of disciplines including mathematics, physics, engineering, chemistry, computer science, ecology and evolutionary biology, and economics.

Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Outreach

NIH Neuroscience Seminar- March 30, 2015

TITLE: Membrane fusion mediated by SNARE proteins

AUTHOR: Reinhard Jahn, Ph.D., Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

TIME: 12:00:00 PM DATE: Monday, March 23, 2015

PLACE: Porter Neuroscience Research Center

Live NIH Videocast (archived after seminar)NIH Neuroscience Seminar- March 30, 2015

 

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