Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.


NIH Study on Big Data and Imaging Analysis Yields High-Res Brain Map

July 28th, 2016 / in Announcements, big science, research horizons, Research News / by Helen Wright

cyborg brainNational Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researchers have more than doubled the knowledge of the functional areas of the human brain.

NIH Director, Francis Collins, posted a Director’s Blog about a recent NIH funded study that was reported in the journal Nature, which brings the map of the human brain into much sharper focus.

From the blog post:

By combining multiple types of cutting-edge brain imaging data from more than 200 healthy young men and women, the researchers were able to subdivide the cerebral cortex, the brain’s outer layer, into 180 specific areas in each hemisphere. Remarkably, almost 100 of those areas had never before been described. This new high-resolution brain map will advance fundamental understanding of the human brain and will help to bring greater precision to the diagnosis and treatment of many brain disorders.

Matthew Glasser and David Van Essen of Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, and their colleagues were able to assemble their high resolution map using a machine learning approach in which a computer was trained to recognize each of the brain areas. Their map identified 97 new areas in each of the brain’s two hemispheres and confirmed the existence of 83 others that had been described previously. That more than doubles the total of mapped areas in cerebral cortex to 180. They then applied their tool to the brain scans of another 210 HCP participants that were not included in the original mapping effort. The team found it could reliably detect nearly all (96.6 percent) of the 180 areas. This map brings us one step closer to fully understanding and mapping the human brain.

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) co-sponsored with the National Science Foundation (NSF) a brain science and computer science workshop in late 2014, called Research Interfaces between Brain Science and Computer Science. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together computer scientists and brain scientists to articulate new research opportunities and “brain”-storm grand challenges inspired by President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. Over 70 computer scientists and neuroscientists from academia, industry, and government were in attendance and between 160-300 participants viewed each panel and plenary on the live-stream. You can see all the videos and slides from the workshop here.

In early 2016, the organizers of the workshop were invited to present their workshop report at the NSF. The report suggests that the study of computing and the study of the brain interrelate in three ways, each suggesting a major research direction.

First, the experimental study of brain architecture and function is a massive-data problem. Making progress necessitates advances in computing and the realization of new computational tools.

Second, the study of efficient algorithms and the design of intelligent autonomous systems should provide new ideas and inspiration concerning brain architecture and function.

Finally, the remarkable efficiency (including energy efficiency) of the brain, once understood, may inspire radically new algorithmic or system organization approaches that could transform computing itself.

Jack Gallant (UC Berkeley), Polina Golland (MIT) and Greg Hager (JHU) gave the presentation and led the surrounding discussions.

To see the full NSF and CCC report from the Research Interfaces between Brain Science and Computer Science workshop, please click here.

NIH Study on Big Data and Imaging Analysis Yields High-Res Brain Map