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The Human Brain Taken to a “Virtual” Arena: Models and Computers Aid Neuroscience Research

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/19/2008

Many experimental methods are available for neuroscience, but integrative approaches and technological advancements are a way to better understand the human brain.

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    The human brain is an intricate network that relays and processes signals as well as monitors all the processes in the human body.  Simple experimental techniques used to study the brain are useful but parallel to how the brain works, a more integrated approach that involves all aspects of science and technology that is required to try to go beyond current limitations and blind spots.  This integrated approach is further enhanced by the combined efforts of connected researchers who can exchange data more readily from a database. 

    Similar to bioinformatics, neuroinformatics focuses on the creation, maintenance and development of databases that hold data while making sure this information is available to the research community as a whole. The use of this data is integrated with several forms of analyses, including computational methods that involve algorithms, methods of modeling to apply the data and increasingly,  as well as networking technologies. 

    Since the concept of neuroinformatics relies quite heavily on computation which encompasses databases, networks, and virtual models, there is a great importance on more closely integrating computer science with neuroscience, as well as maximizing its application. 

    Another concern is studying the neuronal system which includes local systems that can be grouped further into larger systems that help researchers understand how the brain works as the ultimate mastermind, literally, of the entire neuronal system.   Since there are several levels of organization and cross-talk between systems, there is an importance on analyzing how these systems work independently, correlatively, and within a larger framework.  Thus, modeling analyses are especially useful to understand these types of interactions. 

    Thus, in response to the need for complicated levels of analyses as well as computational methods, technological developments include a focus on connecting computers and their data via the internet, and relying on this to perform several sets of smaller computations simultaneously or to perform a very large computation. There is also a great push for making data, modeling tools and collaborative analyses available for exchange and contribution between many researchers in the various fields of science. 

    In this current communication and technology rich age, the benefit of network communication, information exchange, and computational advancement is the best example of positively enhancing scientific research and taking it to a new level.