Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mapping the Brain

While Honda is working on mapping and interpreting 'brain waves' from outside the scalp, the Allen Institute is taking a more 'inside' approach.

As highlighted in next month's Wired Magazine, Paul Allen has sponsored a $55M, 9-year project that is expected to take until 2012: mapping the DNA sequences throughout the human brain.

Modelled on the Human Genome Project (which itself took 13 years, and was completed in 2003), the Allen Brain Atlas has developed its own robots to efficiently test and classify the 20,000 genes that comprise the average human brain.

The Allen Institute has already completed one related project: mapping the DNA of a mouse brain, located here. (Mouse brains are -- perhaps somewhat disappointingly -- are not dissimilar to human brains.)

Completion of the brain DNA sequencing may open up many possibilities to address mental illnesses and disorders, which often contain a significant genetic component. Indeed, high-profile conditions like autism and Alzheimer's (and perhaps related conditions like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)) may become more treatable once the genetic codes are unlocked.

More evidence that technological advancement continues even as the world's finances remain unsettled.

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