In an attempt to unlock the secrets of the brain, the University of Michigan is leading a project that has been referred to as an international “dream team” of experts. The project unites individuals from a variety of fields with a goal of stimulating and sensing brain activity down to the level of a single-neuron. In order to accomplish this feat and help unravel the brain’s mysteries, the team was awarded $5 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Notably, the collaboration is meant to foster a closer collaboration between an international group of neuroscientists and engineers. Kensall Wise, the William Gould Dow Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and project co-leader, notes the significance of the collaboration: “By bringing together people with different approaches and expertise, the result could be a quantum leap forward in neuroscience and our understanding of the brain.” Collaborators will be coming from all over the world, from Singapore, South Korea, Germany, and London.
Inspiring a Generation
This team intends to investigate which neurons produce which behaviors. They will do this with the help of a technique called “optogenetics.” This technique uses genetically modified neurons that can essentially be triggered on and off through the use of different colors of light. This triggering will allow researchers to map out patterns of brain activity that are responsible for different behaviors.
Project co-leader John Seymour said that the goal is to try and open new doors for the next generation of scientists: “people will be studying the brain for a very long time, well beyond our lifetimes. One of our main objectives is to develop the next generation of neurotechnologists and neuroscientists who have been cross-trained in both fields and can really push technology both into neuroscience and eventually into health care.”