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Philipp Berens is partner in a US Research Network to decipher the secrets of the brain

07. November 2017

Dr. Philipp Berens from the Institute for Ophthalmic Research in Tuebingen is partner in a US Research Network to decipher the secrets of the brain

Neuroscientists from the Institute for Ophthalmic Research of the University of Tübingen are involved in a $65 million program to map the brain, which is being organized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA. The University of Tuebingen is next to the Swedish Stockholm based Karolinska Institute the only project partner in Europe

The BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN), a major NIH-funded project, aims to create a reference "brain atlas" that records all cell types and describes their genetics, morphology and function.

The project, which will investigate several hundred thousand individual cells, will use various neuroscientific methods to identify all cell types in the mouse's neocortex. It will serve as a first step to categorize the cell types in the much more complex neocortex of humans.

Dr. Philipp Berens from the Institute for Ophthalmic Research will be contributing bioinformatics and machine learning methods to integrate the various types of data collected. The prestigious project, led by the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, includes the Baylor College of Medicine, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley. The University of Tübingen is the only project partner in Europe apart from the Stockholm Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and will receive approximately 700,000 euros in funding over a period of five years.

The brain consists of a large number of cell types, which are not all known yet. The cell types differ in their external appearance and electrical activity as well as in the way they are connected to other cells and which parts of their DNA are active. Their complete coverage would be a fundamental scientific achievement from which the neuroscientists worldwide would benefit for decades to come. It would also facilitate the understanding of neurodegenerative and neuro-psychiatric diseases at the cellular level.

Background: The BRAIN Initiative: The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative® is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, will show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. It is expected that the application of these new tools and technologies will ultimately lead to new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders.