(Photo by Wang Xiaoying/chinadaily.com.cn)
Why do some brains discover the laws of universe, while others create soul-stirring music or paintings? How is memory and consciousness generated?
We can observe billions of stars and detect ripples in space, but we still barely understand our brains, which can fathom the universe.
Their sophisticated structure and the number of neurons are only estimates.
Now Chinese scientists are planning to draw the clearest yet three-dimensional map of the intricate neurons and blood vessels in the human brain.
This ambitious project is like taking 3D photos of a huge forest of nearly 100 billion trees, seeing not only the whole forest, but also every twig and leaf on each tree.
"Our current methods cannot see both the trees and the forest. We aim to develop new methods to obtain a high-resolution map to see clearly how the neural network is connected," said Luo Qingming, leader of the research.
Luo, president of Hainan University and chief scientist of the Suzhou Institute for Brainsmatics of the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), in east China's Jiangsu Province, said the research will help in analyzing the mechanisms of brain diseases, and promote the development of artificial intelligence.
"The continuous changes of neural networks and brain activities pose great challenges to the analysis of brain functions. But we believe that brain functions and activities depend on the basic cells, just as a circuit network depends on its basic unit - the electronic components," said Luo.
"Different types of neurons are the basis for the analysis of brain functions and for the diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases," he said.