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Dr. Sameer Sheth on the Value of a Brain Blueprint

Dr. Sameer Sheth
Dr. Sameer Sheth

Incredible scientific advancements are afoot in the area of mapping the landscape and function of the human brain. Inspired by the recent completion of the genome project, President Obama has launched the BRAIN Initiative to similarly chart the human brain.

This initiative, Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN), has garnered more than $300 million in private and public funds to date.

The money is being distributed and research is underway in labs across the country. An article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine recently featured the brain mapping efforts of one Princeton researcher, Dr. Seabastian Seung.

In his lab, Dr. Seung is using sophisticated software engineering and high-resolution brain images to map the physical structure of the brain. His aim is to create, what he calls the “connectome.” This is a diagram that would identify each of the trillions of connections between individual nerve cells that make up the human brain.

One of our neurosurgeons, Dr. Sameer Sheth, who is also a neuroscientist with a Ph.D. and post-doctoral training in neurophysiology, has a particularly keen interest in the BRAIN Initiative and the work of scientists like Dr. Seung.

“If we can understand how the brain works at the level of individual neurons and circuits,” says Dr. Sheth.”We will be much better equipped to repair it.

Many of the common neurological and psychiatric disorders affecting millions of people worldwide are likely caused by disorders of neuronal development and connectivity.

Just a few examples are epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many others.

The first step to being able to treat the root causes of these problems is to understand the structure of the normal brain. If we can assemble the basic “blueprint” of our brain’s structure, we can identify the structural deficits that underlie these and many other diseases.

Doing so would revolutionize our ability to care for patients with these devastating conditions. The work described in this [NY Times] article is an exciting vision of future possibilities.”

Lear more about Dr. Sameer Sheth on his bio page here.


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