RIVERSIDE, Calif. — How the human brain, the most complex object in the known universe, does what it does remains a mystery. While it's true that scientists understand much about the composition of neurons (nerve cells) and how they send and receive electrical and chemical signals and how large bundles of neurons connect major areas of the brain to each other, a gap persists in our knowledge on how signals from individual neurons combine to produce activities such as walking, recognizing a melody, playing a musical instrument or understanding mathematics.
The "Brain Activity Map Project," a collaborative research initiative, aims at allowing scientists to fill in this gap by constructing a functional brain map designed to understand complex brain processes.
Ralph J. Greenspan, the associate director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego, will give a talk on the Brain Activity Map (BAM) at 1:10 p.m., April 4, in the Genomics Building Auditorium on the University of California, Riverside campus.
The hour-long talk, titled "The Brain Activity Map," is free and open to the public. Parking on campus costs $6.
"This map will fill the gap in our knowledge of brain activity at a scale between single neuron and whole brain function, an intermediate level where theories predict that complex functions emerge from the network interactions involving millions of neurons," Greenspan said. "The BAM Project will be a large-scale, long-term research project built upon close interactions between scientists, engineers, and theoreticians."
Greenspan has worked on the genetic basis of behavior and brain function in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) almost since the inception of the field. His research includes studies of the consequences of mutations and localized genetic alterations in the nervous, molecular identification of genes causing naturally occurring variation in behavior, and the genetic analysis of fruit fly sleep and attention. His current research addresses large-scale network questions pertaining to the action of genes and neurons.
In addition to research papers, he has authored: Fly Pushing: The Theory and Practice of Drosophila Genetics; An Introduction to Nervous Systems; and How Genes Influence Behavior (with Jonathan Flint and Kenneth S. Kendler).
Greenspan received his Ph.D. in biology in 1979 at Brandeis University, Mass.
The University of California, Riverside (http://www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.
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