The Connectome is the New Genome.

TEDGlobal 2010 is still posting videos, less slowly, and they are still catering to me. In addition to stealing my catch-phrase about optimism, the most recent video they posted is about neurons, the study of which I am currently procrastinating.

In all fairness, this video is much cooler than my neurobiology homework. It features MIT professor Sebastian Seung is talking about a field of neuroscience that is still in its infancy—connectonomics. While I’m studying what individual neurons look like and how they communicate with one another, Seung is figuring out how these neurons are connected. How every neuron is connected.

His goal is to eventually map out the neuronal connections of an entire human brain—the connectome.

“You should just give up,” his friends tell him when he shows them how painstaking a process this is. But Seung hypothesizes that the connectome is the sum of memory and learning—things not encoded in the genome—making it different for everyone, even identical twins. With so much to gain, Seung presses on, acknowledging that a human connectome will likely not be mapped in his lifetime.

Sooo, he’s probably not getting a Nobel-prize. He’s worth listening to anyway.

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