Science Diary: Frontiers of the Brain – Replicating Data

SciDi: Frontiers of the Brain – Replicating Data

Music; Ambience: Neuron chatter

JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries – a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. We’re with John Beggs, a biophysicist at Indiana University, where he is studying the workings of the human brain. We’re listening to the sound of neurons, brain cells, sending out signals. It might sound like static, but those popping noises are what add up to thoughts and memories. By learning more about how individual neurons communicate, John Beggs hopes to better understand how the brain accomplishes its more complex tasks.

JB: “I’m about to talk with David Jackson. And we are working on a hot paper that just broke in the journal Nature and everybody’s been reading it and basically what they said is hey, we have a way of really understanding how lots of brain cells might be talking to each other by assuming that the models that we build are very simple. And so I’m here talking to David. So, tell me what have you been up to?”

David Jackson: “When we look at data from a neural system, be that a system in a lab, or a system in a living brain. We can look at the patterns of activation of the individual neurons. And for a long time, these patterns didn’t make any sense. The basic statistical models that we tried to apply just didn’t work. At all. And so, for the first time, in some senses, we have a model that is able to work really well and give quite good fits to the data, which is incredibly exciting.”

JB: “Yeah. One of the things we want to do is just basically replicate their findings, but with our data set. We’ve got some human tissue in there, we’ve got some tissue from rat brains that have been grown in different ways. So, we’ll see if this thing is going to fit their model. So far it looks pretty good. “

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Science Diary: Frontiers of the Brain - Replicating Data

A new model shows promise in helping Science Diarist John Beggs understand data collected from neurons.
Air Date:12/14/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

SciDi: Frontiers of the Brain - Replicating Data

Music; Ambience: Neuron chatter

JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries - a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. We're with John Beggs, a biophysicist at Indiana University, where he is studying the workings of the human brain. We're listening to the sound of neurons, brain cells, sending out signals. It might sound like static, but those popping noises are what add up to thoughts and memories. By learning more about how individual neurons communicate, John Beggs hopes to better understand how the brain accomplishes its more complex tasks.

JB: "I'm about to talk with David Jackson. And we are working on a hot paper that just broke in the journal Nature and everybody's been reading it and basically what they said is hey, we have a way of really understanding how lots of brain cells might be talking to each other by assuming that the models that we build are very simple. And so I'm here talking to David. So, tell me what have you been up to?"

David Jackson: "When we look at data from a neural system, be that a system in a lab, or a system in a living brain. We can look at the patterns of activation of the individual neurons. And for a long time, these patterns didn't make any sense. The basic statistical models that we tried to apply just didn't work. At all. And so, for the first time, in some senses, we have a model that is able to work really well and give quite good fits to the data, which is incredibly exciting."

JB: "Yeah. One of the things we want to do is just basically replicate their findings, but with our data set. We've got some human tissue in there, we've got some tissue from rat brains that have been grown in different ways. So, we'll see if this thing is going to fit their model. So far it looks pretty good. "

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.