MAR 19, 2014 06:00 AM PDT
The Novel Neurotechnology: implications for science, medicine and society
Presented at the Neuroscience Virtual Event
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  • NIH Director's Pioneer Awardee, Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience, Columbia University, Co-director of the Kavli Foundations Institute for Neural Circuitry
      Rafael Yuste is an HHMI Investigator, Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at Columbia University and Co-director of the Kavli Foundations Institute for Neural Circuitry. He obtained his M.D. at the Universidad Autonoma in Madrid. After a brief period in Brenners laboratory in Cambridge, he did his Ph.D work with Katz and Wiesel at Rockefeller University and postdoctoral research with Tank and Denk at Bell Labs. Dr. Yuste has pioneered the application of imaging techniques in neuroscience, such as calcium imaging of neuronal circuits, two-photon imaging, photostimulation using caged compounds and holographic spatial light modulation microscopy. These technical developments have resulted in several patents, two of which are commercially licensed. Yuste has obtained many awards for his work, including New York City Mayors and the Society for Neurosciences Young Investigator Awards. Finally, he has recently been involved in launching the Brain Activity Map Project, a large-scale international effort to record and manipulate the activity of every neuron in brain circuits, a role highlighted by Nature who named Yuste One of the 5 scientists to watch in 2013. Dr. Yuste and his laboratory are pursuing a reverse engineering strategy to understand the function of the cortical microcircuit, a basic element of cortex architecture.

    In physical systems built with many components, emergent properties, such as magnetism, are often generated from the interactions among these particles. These emergent properties are often invisible when observing individual particles, since they depend on large-scale interactions between them. Likewise, the function of neural circuits has been mostly studied by examining the responses of individual neuron, yet it is probably an emergent property that arises from the coordinated activity of large numbers of neurons. To capture this emergent level of brain function, we proposed to launch a large-scale, international public project, the Brain Activity Map Project (which has become the BRAIN Initiative), aimed at developing new methods to measure and control neural activity across complete neural circuits in experimental animals and human patients. This technological effort will be an interdisciplinary project, incorporating into neuroscience many methods and approaches from the physical sciences and nanotechnologies. The data obtained with these new methodscould prove to be an invaluable step towards understanding fundamental and pathological brain processes.

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