What's brain science?
Brain scientists are trying to find the answers to basic questions such as : what are the functions of the many genes and proteins found in the brain? How do brain cells interact with each other? How does the brain grow and what happens when we learn? Can we reverse the effects of aging and repair damage to the brain? How can we apply our understanding of brain function to create intelligent devices?
To answer these questions, scientists use a wide variety of experimental techniques. The following are just some of the methods used by brain scientists at RIKEN BSI:
By analyzing the structures, functions, and interactions of the various molecules found within brain cells, scientists can study their role in the basic machinery that controls the growth, function, and death of brain cells.
Much of brain development is determined by genes. Brain scientists study what genes are expressed, or activated during different developmental periods, and how mutations to genes affect development, or lead to disease. Recently, several technical developments have given powerful tools to geneticists. It is now possible to selectively remove from or insert particular genes into mice, allowing scientists to test the function of the proteins encoded by those genes.
When brain cells are active, they generate electrical signals. By measuring these electrical signals, or the by-products of brain metabolic activity, scientists can learn a great deal about the function of neurons, how they process information, and how they interact with each other.
The brain is made up of billions of neurons of many different shapes and sizes. Analyzing the physical structure of a neuron yields a lot of information about its functions, what other neurons it interacts with, and what role these interactions play.
Brain scientists conduct theoretical neuroscience studies, building computer programs and devices that mimic brain function. Constructing models of how the brain works helps scientists understand its function and properties.