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Computer Science Allows Better Understanding of Brain’s Function

by learningdiscoveries on August 28, 2014

A neuron or a nerve cell is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. Neurons are the core components of the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and the ganglia of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which comprises the central nervous system (CNS).

A study conducted by a group of local high school students and a faculty from the Department of Computer and Information Science in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) which showcases the work of motor circuits of the brain showing a potential to help developing therapies to treat conditions related to brain functional disorder like stroke, schizophrenia, spinal cord injury or Alzheimer’s disease.

The structure of human’s brain is considered the most complicate organs with trillions of neurons and the synapses. The structure of the brain can be observed through the use of MRI and CAT scan. However, we are still a long way away to view a single neuron in human’s brain.

In their study, artificial intelligence tools such as computer vision and image procession are used to visualise and process actual neurons in the brain of model organisms. The goal is to move forward to more complex organisms in the attempt to reconstructing the human central nervous system which will allow us to understand what is happening at the cellular level when major disorders of the brain and spinal cord occur. Understanding this will hopefully lead to a development of a more robust remedy of these conditions.

The research team which included two Indianapolis high school students, Rachel Stephens and Tiange (Tony) Qu, performed a sophisticate work in collecting and analysing data on minute structures over various developmental stages using processed images and reconstructed neuronal motor circuitry in the brain.

This study is considered an impressive work combining neuroscience and computer science. With mentoring, both high school students who worked on this study performed neuroscience and computer science exercises at the same level as those conducted elsewhere by more mature graduate students.

Qu, one of the two high school students involved in this study said that the work was initially intimidating but then he quickly grew the appreciation for the opportunity to work in the School of Science lab which is much more challenging and impressive than the high school work.

Stephens, a senior at North Central High School, said she enjoyed working in the collaborative manner, with computer scientists and life scientists working together on the same issue.
It is exciting to see the computer science’s role in neuroscience. This collaborative approach provides a great hope for remedies of severe brain’s functional disorders related conditions.

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Rosemary Boon

Registered Psychologist

M.A. (Psych),
Grad. Dip. Ed. Studies (Sch. Counsel),
Grad Dip. Ed. B Sc, Dip. Nut.

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