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Whole Human Brain Mapped In 3D

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the brain-and-brain,-what-is-brain? dept.

Canada 99

ananyo writes "An international group of neuroscientists has sliced, imaged and analysed the brain of a 65-year-old woman to create the most detailed map yet of a human brain in its entirety. The atlas, called 'BigBrain,' shows the organization of neurons with microscopic precision, which could help to clarify or even redefine the structure of brain regions obtained from decades-old anatomical studies (abstract). The atlas was compiled from 7,400 brain slices, each thinner than a human hair. Imaging the sections by microscope took a combined 1,000 hours and generated 10 terabytes of data. Supercomputers in Canada and Germany churned away for years reconstructing a three-dimensional volume from the images, and correcting for tears and wrinkles in individual sheets of tissue."

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99 comments

I bow. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070297)

Are you not the one who said halabaloo I sucked your shit? And then you bowed before the pile of shit...

Indeed (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 9 months ago | (#44070431)

This is equally important. I , for one , only have a few parts of my brain left. So MY model would look vastly different from those tested. I am not quite dead yet. Therefore ...Pfffffft

So how is she? (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#44070313)

After that procedure of mapping her brain, did she recover well? were there any side effects? When will we have the first interviews?

Re:So how is she? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070471)

She's a woman, she wasn't using her brain anyway.

Re:So how is she? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070855)

please /.

This predominately an American site and you know how they struggle with irony.

HINT: only a brainless person would find this funny.

*grabs popcorn and wonders which will get modded out of existence first, the OP's sexism or this racisim*

Re:So how is she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44071291)

please /.

This predominately an American site and you know how they struggle with irony.

HINT: only a brainless person would find this funny.

*grabs popcorn and wonders which will get modded out of existence first, the OP's sexism or this racisim*

if "American" were a race we'd have a lot less racism in America.

Re:So how is she? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44075731)

HINT: only a brainless person would find this funny.

You mean a man?

Re:So how is she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44077805)

And you lose because you are a brainless idiot that cant read and assumed sexisim...

Oh look He is +5 funny and you are -1 stupid doosh bag.

Re:So how is she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070561)

"Brain slices" in this case is actual slices. As in, with a blade.
So yeah, she's doing fine.
Not sure if I'm feeding a troll here...

Re:So how is she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070629)

-1 Whoosh

Re:So how is she? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070575)

She seems ok, but she can't stop watching FOX for some reason

Re:So how is she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070715)

i think that she didn't survive the slicing of her brain into 7400 slices.

Re:So how is she? (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 9 months ago | (#44071347)

Well, we replaced it with an electronic brain, a simple one. All it needed to say was "What?" and "Where's the tea?"

Re:So how is she? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44072953)

I was thinking the exact same thing:

"No, no," said Frankie, "it's the brain we want to buy."

"What!"

"Well, who would miss it?" inquired Benjy.

"I thought you said you could just read his brain electronically," protested Ford.

"Oh yes," said Frankie, "but we'd have to get it out first. It's got to be prepared."

"Treated," said Benjy.

"Diced."

"Thank you," shouted Arthur, tipping up his chair and backing away from the table in horror.

"It could always be replaced," said Benjy reasonably, "if you think it's important."

"Yes, an electronic brain," said Frankie, "a simple one would suffice."

"A simple one!" wailed Arthur.

"Yeah," said Zaphod with a sudden evil grin, "you'd just have to program it to say What? and I don't understand and Where's the tea? Who'd know the difference?"

"What?" cried Arthur, backing away still farther.

"See what I mean?" said Zaphod, and howled with pain because of something that Trillian did at that moment.

"I'd notice the difference," said Arthur.

"No, you wouldn't," said Frankie mouse, "you'd be programmed not to."

next we need to use Google Maps... (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about 9 months ago | (#44070317)

to figure out a route between what I want to say and my speech centers

Re:next we need to use Google Maps... (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#44071339)

to figure out a route between what I want to say and my speech centers

Interestingly, some studies have found that at least some of the time, you actually say things before you create the "memory" that you want to -- your brain then constructs the memory that you intended to say that after the fact. Spooky stuff.

However, something else that I'm curious about is this: it's known that male and female brains, while sharing the same generic topography, are actually significantly different, both in use of grey and white matter,, and in density of neurons in various areas and development of various areas.

So, while this will tell us a lot about the female brain, are they planning to do the same thing for the male brain so we have better understanding about similarities and differences at this level? Because without a larger and distributed sample set, even with the immense amount of data they've retrieved, only a tiny fraction of it will be useful for anything more than the most general of studies about the physical brain.

Re:next we need to use Google Maps... (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 9 months ago | (#44073135)

no what need is to use it to figure out the route between what i say and my wife's interpretation centers, and back again, so i can figure out how mad she'll be and why about whatever normal innocent thing i say before i say it, and i can properly interpret it when she says "Fine" or "Really?".

How Complex Can It Be? (2)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 9 months ago | (#44070363)

10 terabytes? The entropy for the entire human body is about 700 megabytes as per DNA, surely there must be a lower order of complexity than that in the brain?

Re: How Complex Can It Be? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070407)

The dna is just the code. The brain represents the running state of that code following 65 years worth of exogenous and endogenous inputs.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070531)

No? DNA is instructions; if you run a 700 mb program for 65 years, subject to an entire world of input, it will probably generate a lot more than 10 tb of data. The data, in the case of the brain, is the way the neurons connect to each other. Were that complexity limited by DNA we wouldn't be able to remember anything that wasn't already hardcoded into our DNA; we would be non-learning beasts of pure instinct.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070535)

Fractals are very complex structures produced by very simple equations. The data needed to store a fractal image is much greater than the data needed to store the equation that can generate it.

Same deal here between DNA and the structures that get built from it.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 9 months ago | (#44072713)

That's a decent analogy, but it leaves out that a bunch of the structure of the brain is driven by environmental stimuli.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44078255)

Writing down the Standard Model and General Relativity takes much less space, and this brain got built from those. Sometimes it's a good idea to trade more space (a map of the brain) for less time (procedurally generating a brain from its DNA).

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolmogorov_complexity

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070599)

Maybe in yours.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 9 months ago | (#44070615)

Why is a SVG-based image a much smaller filesize than a identical raster-based image? Because the SVG-based image tells HOW to build the image while the raster-based image just described each and every pixel.

Same thing applies to this case. The human genome may be 700 MB as you state, but that only describes HOW to build a human so to speak, not what it looks like after it's finished. Human DNA doesn't say that a particular spot of an organ should be this color, and a adjacent spot a slightly different color. Those things naturally occur. Nor does DNA specifically encode what the exact shape of an organ will be, while a scan would record what that final shape was, but not how to create it originally.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070931)

You do realize that people interact with their environment, right?

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (1)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about 9 months ago | (#44072293)

You do realize that people interact with their environment, right?

Sure, once they leave their mom's basement. So how often is that?

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44076021)

by environment, you mean green and white light from a computer screen. right?

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44071525)

Entropy is a specific concept related to symbol frequency. The entropy of DNA is probably about equal to the size of a binary representation of the complete genome, but in a 3D model of the human brain ... what's a symbol?

You may be confusing entropy with Kolmogorov complexity, as many people do, and then jumping to the assumption that a Kolmogorov compressor exists (which it doesn't) which is used on all files of a large enough size (which it isn't).

Anyway, you want to deal with a 10TB file in ZIP format?!

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44072753)

This is like comparing the blueprints for a house to the finished product.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 9 months ago | (#44072821)

The blueprints for a house are a few MBs. A 3D Scan of the house down to the texture of the wood would be petabytes.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (1)

Creepy (93888) | about 9 months ago | (#44072969)

For raw data, of course, but since the house is mostly planar surfaces you most likely could massively reduce the data using octrees, kd-trees, or other methods.

Re:How Complex Can It Be? (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 10 months ago | (#44075313)

If you want to understand how houses in general work though, it's better to study those blueprints than the color of the counter-tops in the kitchen.

Good (1)

hurwak-feg (2955853) | about 9 months ago | (#44070369)

Maybe this will help fix some of our wetware bugs.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44075547)

Like being a little cry baby? I don't think there's any help for you.
 
WHAAA!!!! WHAAA!!!!
 
Your "wetware bug" is that you won't just step up to life's challenges. Keep crying yourself to sleep though. It makes the rest of us laugh.

Re:Good (1)

hurwak-feg (2955853) | about 10 months ago | (#44075935)

Are you the same AC from the Aaron's law thread? This is the last time I'm going to respond to your abusive behavior, so feel free to post whatever non sense you like.

In response to your reply, you have NO idea what wetware bugs I am referring to. Maybe I am talking about alzheimer's, schizophrenia, or dementia? What does that have to do with facing life's challenges? Even if it is a case of being a "cry baby", are you a psychiatrist or a neurologist that can make a diagnosis based on a few message board posts and determine that it is untreatable? If that is the case and you are that good, why don't you explain to me how I can stop being such a "cry baby." Don't be afraid of a challenge, telling me to kill myself isn't facing a challenge, now is it? It is running away from it. Tough guys like you don't run from challenges, they kick the challenges ass back to where it came from.

Last, assuming you are the same AC, do you just Ctrl-F looking for my user name just to insult me? If that is the case, next time You sound like a truly troubled individual that is making yourself and everyone else miserable. Please do yourself a favor and get yourself a referral to a psychiatrist. I don't mean it in a mean way. I am actually trying to help you. Whatever you are suffering from that makes you want to go out of your way to pester someone you came across on an internet discussion board a few days ago seems rather awful.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44078727)

Like I said, keep talking. We'll keep laughing. I've read your other stuff too and you come off as a cunt there as well.

Boot that brain! (1)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44070371)

Now someone needs to boot a simulation of that brain up on a super computer and see what it does.

Ethics (3, Interesting)

Picass0 (147474) | about 9 months ago | (#44070601)

Consider for a moment that were possible. Probably not today, at some point if driver software could be written to run this digital model. If by some long shot it were possible would it be ethically right? What if there were some sense of awareness, personality, fear of the strange circumstances she now finds herself in? She would be without her senses and without any level of input from the outside that she would relate to as a normal person.

And then consider: Is it right to turn such a system on and off like any other computer?

Re:Ethics (3, Interesting)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44070647)

It was mostly in jest, but being that it is a simulation, is it real at all. Will it have a soul? I would think that in a few decades that computers would be able to run such a simulation.

Re:Ethics (2)

ThreeKelvin (2024342) | about 9 months ago | (#44070999)

A soul? Probably not. But then I've never seen any evidence for souls, so my best bet is that I'm as soulless as an average brick. It wouldn't be fair of me to look down on her for lacking something I don't possess myself.

Now, the question of if she's real is an interesting one, which has been discussed to death by various philosophers. The discussion usually goes something like:

Imagine that the test subject has a wholly human brain. There's no question whether the subject is real or not. Now, replace a single neuron with an artificial one. (In this case, simulate it on a computer and put cables in her brain to connect it.) Is she still real? Is she still a human? (I'd say yes, but others might say differently. Some might even say that she lost a bit of her soul.)

Repeat the procedure until she isn't real any more, or you run out of neurons to replace. If she stopped being real, at which point was it? what's so special about that particular point? (etc.)

Re:Ethics (1)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44071351)

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Bareil_Antos [memory-alpha.org] "Dr. Bashir, on the orders of Bareil, gave him an experimental drug that let him function for a few days. However, the drug did irreversible damage to the vedek's organs, eventually destroying part of his brain. At Kira's urging, Bashir replaced the damaged brain region with an artificial positronic implant, so that Bareil could continue to advise Winn. Soon after the peace treaty was signed, the remainder of Bareil's brain was destroyed. Kira and Bashir decided to allow him to die, rather than replace his entire brain with a machine. (DS9: "Life Support")"

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44073683)

I would call any state of having some neurons simulated and some neurons biological to be partially, even mostly disabled. While she has even a single biological neuron I think she could still be called a disabled person, but a person none the less. To completely remove the human element though is to make someone not a person.
Why disabled? Because a simulation is our most approximate understanding of how something works. Replacing even one neuron, certainly replacing nearly all neurons, means that the responses cannot be depended on to be normal human behavior. If a part of the body cannot be relied on, then that person is disabled.

Of course, that is just the opinion of one AC.

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44076231)

An amputee, I would agree with you, is still quite human by any definition, and like the poor woman you have sadistically tortured to try and prove a ridiculous false premise, still has her God given soul intact. What they suffer from is a broken spirit. On account of you and your pigheaded stubbornness to accept what easily explains EVERYTHING you are trying to explain with even greater mysticism.
And for THAT you will go to hell. Not because you don't believe in God. But for the depths you are willing to sink to in order to deny Him.
Seriously, what kind of sick bastard entertains thoughts of tearing a human being apart one cell at a time?
What the fuck is wrong with you Atheists?

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44071165)

It will have exactly as much of a soul as you or I. Take that however you wish.

Re:Ethics (1)

end15 (607595) | about 9 months ago | (#44072871)

What do you mean by the term "Soul"? It seems so broad that it loses meaning quickly.

Re:Ethics (1)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44073013)

Something intangible. The spark of life. Hey do you remember that 80s thriller drama where a father is diagnosed with a terminal disease and is frozen. He is thawed years later (his son is now close in age to the father) but when he was reanimated he was soulless/evil?

Re:Ethics (1)

end15 (607595) | about 9 months ago | (#44073279)

"Something intangible."

See that makes it very difficult to discuss. Maybe there's another way to get at what your suggesting other than the term "soul".

Re:Ethics (1)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44073401)

Hey now, obviously you must think that you are nothing more than the sum of your parts. Personally, I think there is something more. But anyways here is the definition since you don't know what the work means. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/soul [reference.com]

Re:Ethics (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | about 10 months ago | (#44075423)

I would posit that a computer running a program is more than the sum of its parts.

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44076077)

of course it is. like a diamond ring represents something more than the sum of it's parts. but it doesn't have a soul.

Re:Ethics (3, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 9 months ago | (#44070669)

On her, no way it's possible. The brain went too long between death and digitisation - no oxygen means rapid and extreme damage. Even if the scan were good enough to get synapse-level tracing (It isn't), it wouldn't run.

Give it a few more decades though, maybe as much as a century. There's nothing scientifically impossible about it - it's just an engineering challenge. I imagine you'd need to resort to either nondestructive living readout (Future super-MRI?) or some sort of preservation process (Cryonic or chemical).

Senses can be simulated too. Just wire up to a robot, or a simulated environment.

Re:Ethics (1)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44071385)

The map is there, with the layout of the neurons, in the simulation you just replace the damaged neurons with simulations of healthy ones.

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44071713)

The problem is that there's a lot more information held in a brain, than just the "layout of the neurons". Lots of molecular-scale detail which wasn't captured by this scan (e.g., the number of Dopamine D4 receptors at a particular synapse). There's lots of information held within each neuron, including epigenetic changes acquired through learning [sciencedaily.com].

Re:Ethics (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 9 months ago | (#44072415)

Yes. It'd probably need a combination approach: A long, long session or series of sessions in the scanner to collect a lot of functional information, followed by removing the brain for a slice-and-scan to get some of the finer details. The patient may not survive, but if the patient has a terminal disease already... why not?

Re:Ethics (1)

cfulton (543949) | about 9 months ago | (#44071007)

Consider for a moment that were possible. Probably not today, at some point if driver software could be written to run this digital model. If by some long shot it were possible would it be ethically right?

You clearly don't read enough science fiction. Of course it would be ethical. Then we could all retire to a computerized wonderland of drugs and sex with no side effects. Trillions of lives could be encoded with out the crazy need for real food, clothing and shelter. If it could be done it would be Nirvana/Heaven/Wonderland/Paradise come true!!! Rock on supercomputers. I wanna be your first upload.

Re:Ethics (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#44071063)

I wanna be your first upload.

Oh really? You want to be a beta tester for that? Me, I'm waiting for rev 3, at least.

Whatcouldpossiblygowrong?

Re:Ethics (2)

Tighe_L (642122) | about 9 months ago | (#44071439)

Ahh, but it wouldn't be you, as you are dead. It would be a simulation of you. I would imagine that the brain simulations would be done in the future for ability to retain knowledge of the previous generations. The alive people wouldn't maintain those computer systems for simulations of past generations to have fun. Most likely they would boot you up, consult with you for some fact or advice the put you in sleep mode until next time you are needed.

Re:Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44073211)

Some people identify more personally with the pattern than the atoms, or avoid the whole idea altogether. I'd be hesitant to declare my notion of the self is objective.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta

As for what these things would be used for - because of Moore's Law, they will someday think much faster than any human ever could... they would be "post-human". Within decades they would rule the world, occasionally inhabiting robotic bodies to visit the gigantic frozen meat structures from which they evolved. For the Luddites who chose to not upload themselves, watching the world outside their community would be like looking out as one falls into a black hole. Wars and empires would start and end in moments, and hopefully their retarded ancestors would be left undisturbed out of respect.

awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070381)

This is the future, folks. Not space stations or private rockets, there's no energy to do that. But we already know matter organizes itself into brains, we are now starting to understand that. The future will be interesting, more people will ride bikes, fewer people will fly, space will be forever Low Earth Orbit but we'll have amazing information processing capacities!

Not at all like the "FTL travel but simple computers the size of buildings" they predicted in the 1960s, eh??

Re:awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070553)

space will be forever Low Earth Orbit but we'll have amazing information processing capacities!

But with such amazing information processing capacity, why do we need FTL travel to get beyond LEO? Scan a human brain, slap it into Voyager 3, and send it off. Boom, we've left LEO and didn't need FTL to do it.

Re:awesome (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 9 months ago | (#44072961)

A definite point, even though I don't agree with the grandparent. He's right that energy *IS* a constraining factor. Even worse (currently) is our inability to maintain a nearly closed ecosystem. I suspect that accelerations in space will always be slow, and I suspect that FTL is actually impossible. That still doesn't close off even meat-organisms to space (except that we haven't learned to maintain a nearly closed ecosystem).

Since once you're in orbit, low accelerations suffice to reach any other location in orbit anywhere, the only problem is to maintain sufficient energy flow during the transition (and after you get there). For solar space, out to around the orbit of Jupiter, solar cells should suffice. And there are plenty of asteroids in that area. Beyond, out as far as the Oort clouds, fusion power should suffice. For propulsion the best current technology appears to be to use ion-jets. And you don't economize on living space, because you don't want to go crazy. Also, you need a radiation shield, and you need water anyway, so you carry a sizeable weight of water. This all means that transitions are SLOW. So you'd better have enough people along to keep you sane. 12-13 adults seems about right for a small habitat. Scale upwards as you learn more.

Note that this is all doable TODAY, given the intention, except that we can't maintain a nearly closed ecosystem. And learning to maintain a nearly closed ecosystem can be done (well, mainly) at ground level for cheap prices.

Re: awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44077697)

The asteroids and the sun could get us bootstrapped pretty easily. Want a radiation shield? Hollow out a big rock.

The ice moons of Jupiter there for the taking, assuming they are lifeless.. All the hydrogen you could burn, a small star's worth, in the gas giants themselves. Assuming they weren't protected as a monument or something because they're so pretty you could mine water ice from Saturn's rings with very little effort.

The Oort cloud and Kuiper objects have more water ice than the human mind can even conceive of, all out there for the taking, stretching a good deal of the way to Proxima Centauri ...

Everything you need to build anything you want and an essentially limitless source of energy to power your creations is right here in our neighborhood.

We just need to go get busy.

Re: awesome (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 10 months ago | (#44080507)

OK. I made one "typo" (well, "though-o"). I mean fission power, rather than fusion, would be enough to get us out to the Oort clouds.

OTOH, the icy moons of Jupiter have too high a gravity to be an attractive choice. You'd need specially designed equipment. Those are no minor masses. Still, there are plenty of icy asteroids beyond Jupiter's orbit.

WRT the Oort clouds...there's a lot of stuff there, but it's rather thinly spread. So figure long transition times between "stops". Probably not practical until we are building habitats the size of cities.

For that matter, it's not wise to focus too tightly on one particular approach. Consider a habitat that's in the shape of a long tube, and that grows by building onto the ends. Perhaps a couple of miles in diameter, though different sections could have different diameters. And spinning, for gravity. Given a long enough tube you can make bends through some pretty sharp angles without causing much stress, though I would design it so that different sections could be safely decoupled, and replaced, removed, or inserted.You'd probably want an occasional non-rotating section. Transport if via electric train, though, so you'd want the sections to be pretty long, to avoid excessive transfers, unless you run the trains in an evacuated tube in the center. Occasionally you'd want an extension to run either straight in or straight out. Power collected at locations near the sun. How far could you find building material to reach? Now use one of the "straight out" constructs as a linear accelerator to launch vehicles to the stars. You should easily have an accelerator 100's of miles long in a vacuum all the way. I'd be a bit hesitatnt, however, about using it to catch incoming freight, even presuming it was designed to do so. Also, you don't want a really high launch velocity, because that would make interstellar material act like really heavy penetrating projectiles. Even a few grams impacting at over 0.5c would be unsurvivable. And though such things are rare, you'd be transiting a HUGE amount of space. So what you want to launch would be habitats designed to eventually go into orbit around some other star. They'd need fission power sufficient to make the trip, with a bit of leeway to allow them to start mining at the arrival end. And they'd need to be travelling at not too far above the local speed of debris, so that they could either dodge it, capture it, or survive the impact. (Lead shielding for impact survival, as the impact would be "supersonic" so crystal strength would be much less important than mass.)

This approach would certainly let us reach the Oort clouds, and live there as long as power held out, but I doubt that there's much fissionable mass available there, so stopping there doesn't seem viable. (Controlled fusion would, of course, change things *quite* significantly, though just how would depend on the machinery required to control it.)

Given a nearly closed ecology there are many approaches to living in space, and which is chosen is more a social choice than an engineering one. (OTOH, there are a lot of ways that just wouldn't work, without "magic technology".)

Surprise! (5, Funny)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 9 months ago | (#44070387)

Boy is she going to be surprised once she wakes up inside of a full brain emulation program.

Re:Surprise! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070533)

Thus begins the next Cylon revolution. Not from a transplanted girl dealing with the emotional stress of knowing that her fleshy self has died, but starting from an elderly lady who now has the army of combat drones to successfully force everyone 'off her lawn.'

Now we only have to figure out what it does (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about 9 months ago | (#44070473)

Should have this wrapped up in a few centuries.

Re:Now we only have to figure out what it does (5, Funny)

fabioalcor (1663783) | about 9 months ago | (#44070685)

We will not only understand how the human brain works, we will finally understand A WOMAN!

Re:Now we only have to figure out what it does (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44071243)

Keyword A.

Next step, figuring out how to speed up the process.

Redefining the structure of the brain (3, Insightful)

GeekWithAKnife (2717871) | about 9 months ago | (#44070489)


I always worry when such notions arise. After all, everyone has a slightly different brain. some people have entire regions and functions mapped to areas we thought were science fiction just a decade or two ago. (typically the result of serious childhood brain trauma)
For all we know her brain might differ from the norm, or her regional background might produce a similar anomaly. We'll need many thousands more of such scans.

While this is and should be a celebrated achievement we must keep in mind that microscopically accurate scans will most likely be required on a per individual basis.
Perhaps in the future we'll all carry our own 10PB brain map in our sub-dermal biochips.

Re:Redefining the structure of the brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070571)

I always worry when such notions arise. After all, everyone has a slightly different brain. some people have entire regions and functions mapped to areas we thought were science fiction just a decade or two ago. (typically the result of serious childhood brain trauma)
For all we know her brain might differ from the norm, or her regional background might produce a similar anomaly. We'll need many thousands more of such scans.

While this is and should be a celebrated achievement we must keep in mind that microscopically accurate scans will most likely be required on a per individual basis.
Perhaps in the future we'll all carry our own 10PB brain map in our sub-dermal biochips.

It's the same as the human genome: the first was a grand step in the right direction but wasn't actually that useful, then we got more sequences which gave us something to make better generalisations and predicitons with in relation to whole populations, and these days we're talking about how personalised genomics is going to revolutionise how we treat individuals depending on their own mutations.

Like the first human genome sequence this is really interesting and is a big step. You're right, assuming it is representative of the whole population is dangerous, but it's the first step in the direction of being able to do this for everyone sometime in the future using more advanced (and hopefully non-destructive!) future-generation techniques.

Re:Redefining the structure of the brain (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 9 months ago | (#44070743)

but if we can learnt o understand hers, we can learn to understand others. eventually a methodology to map and understand the brain in a living person, without surgery, could be the norm. alzheimers beings to set in? No problem. Step into the BRI machine for a few a hours, doc reads the results, then they apply a small implant to the precise relevant location of your unique brain to repair the malfunctioning communication relay.

Get out of my head (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070499)

Gives a whole new meaning to being inside someones head!!!

What was her name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070501)

Abby Normal?

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [to Igor] Now that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck's?
Igor: [pause, then] No.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I DID put in?
Igor: Then you won't be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby... Normal.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby Normal?
Igor: I'm almost sure that was the name.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [chuckles, then] Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA?
[grabs Igor and starts throttling him]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Is that what you're telling me?

Awesome (1)

ikaruga (2725453) | about 9 months ago | (#44070563)

Now that they got the procedure I hope they do that with Einstein's brain and, after that, let it rest in peace with the rest of the body. That is assuming that the cellular structure is still intact after half a century inside a jar. Then delete IBM watson and instead install the observed model along side an appropriate bio-physic-chemical engine on the hardware and we can finally enjoy the new age of singularity and no need to think anymore.

Re:Awesome (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 9 months ago | (#44070857)

Yeah, and Einstein's brain in a computer does nothing all day but bemoan his lack of arms to play the violin and ears to listen to music. He was more than a theoretical physicist.

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44072685)

also the fact there are no pretty ladies to play grab ass with.

he was a bit of a hound

Re:Awesome (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#44071189)

No, the cellular structure isn't intact. And it's not intact for the brain mentioned in TFA. A quick glimpse of the sections indicates that they were stained in a variant of the hemotoxylin / eosin stain - one use commonly in light microscopy but one that doesn't even preserve structure at electron microscopy levels, much less biochemically useful levels of detail.

Remember, the process is something like this: Dead person - checked two or three times to make sure they're dead. No brain function. Drain blood, likely embalm the person (in formaldehyde, a very potent protein cross linking chemical that stops virtually all chemical reactions). Cut out brain. Go through a number of other steps to preserve (ie, stop biochemical reactions), soak the brain in wax then slice it nice and thin. Profit! (or more likely, work your butt off for a couple of years going through all those slices).

So, what you are seeing is a protein-crosslinked husk. It's not functional.

Now, the diffusion stuff [humanconne...roject.org]is really interesting - that's more functional. But it doesn't have the level of structural detail. We will likely get there eventually if we don't blow ourselves back into Medieval times, but we're a long ways away from that.

Useful but... (1)

Krau Ming (1620473) | about 9 months ago | (#44070573)

It would be just as or even more useful to have this 3D tool available for the commonly used animal models in research. Given the cost to do just one single brain, it won't be feasible to analyze healthy brains vs brain suffering from disease X. Even if it was feasible, identifying anatomical abnormalities in disease provides limited insight into the mechanism of the disease... these things are sorted out with other techniques that require the use of animal models. I think this is a nice teaching tool for med/health science students but has limited benefit otherwise.

Re:Useful but... (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 9 months ago | (#44073007)

Don't expect the cost to stay constant. Even the next time could be a lot cheaper, as the software has been written, and computers have gotten faster and cheaper.

OTOH, there are probably limits as to how cheap it can get. I'd be really surprised if it got cheaper than $500,000 during this century, unless there was MASSIVE deflation. That would additionally require robotic surgeons doing and examining the slices, as well as better algorithms (probably rewritten to be more extensively parallel) running on the cheaper computers.

It would have been nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44070961)

...to see some acknowledgement of the donor in the original article. Or even here. Even if the actual name remained anonymous.

After all, that's usual under Creative Commons - the process whereby someone gives up something for the common good...

Greg Egan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44072067)

No discussion of Human Brain Mapping would be complete without mentioning Greg Egan.

Done and done (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#44072153)

> 7,400 slices
> 1,000 hours
> 10 terabytes of data
> Supercomputers churned away for years
> BigBrain is part of the Human Brain Project, a 10-year,
> €1-billion European initiative to create a supercomputer
> simulation of the human brain

"Done! Wait, hang on. Please tell me this wasn't a murderer's brain?"

"No, this person died in a hospital. 'Abby-someone'."

"Whew."

Torrent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44072967)

So... where's the torrent for this?

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