Airdate: Nov 06, 2006
Scientist: John Beggs
Science Diary: Frontiers of the Brain
Science Diarist John Beggs explains what makes neuroscience like the Wild West.
SciDi: Frontiers of the Brain
JB: "There is no general theory of how the brain works. It's sort of like the Wild West, it's lawless."
JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
JB: "Hi, my name is John Beggs. I'm Assistant Professor of Biophysics at Indiana University. So, I like to think about what the brain is doing. I want to know how it works. And by that, I mean how does it process information? It does a lot of really interesting things. The brain stores memories. The brain comes up with creative thoughts. The brain processes vision and hearing and sense of touch and smell and taste and it does so many complex things. In some sense, it's the most fundamental question we can ever ask is what is the brain doing because everything that we see, feel, do, think comes through the brain. It is what we are. So, I'd like to get to the root of the whole universe, which is the brain. What we want to do is take little sections of brain, like groups of brain cells, and understand how they store information and how they process information. We think that the brain is too complex a task to tackle all by itself, so it's better to take a little chunk of it and see if we can understand that. It's a simplified system. And that helps us to wrap our mind around it. You know, a lot of people think wow, if you're in the sciences then everything is very well known, and science has proved this or science has proved that. Neuroscience, the study of how the brain works, or how the brain grows and develops, or how the brain heals itself, this field is relatively new, but it's really booming. There are lots of exciting developments in technology so people are really rushing into the area, but it's a relatively immature science. Things are a little bit more up in the air. There is no general theory of how the brain works. It's sort of like the Wild West, it's lawless."
JM: Check out John Beggs' blog on pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.