Connectome: How the brain’s wiring makes us who we are

14th Jun 2012; 13:00

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RSA Thursday

Sebastian Seung, a dynamic young professor at MIT, is at the forefront of a revolution in neuroscience. He believes that the basis of our identity lies not in our genes but in the connections between our brain cells – connections that are absolutely unique to every individual (even the genome isn’t unique between identical twins). 

By mapping this “connectome”, Seung hopes to unlock the mysteries of identity and personality. Seung and a dedicated group of researchers are leading the effort to map these connections, neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. Just as the genome was mapped, so Seung plans to map the “connectome”.

It is a monumental project – the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest – but if they succeed, they will uncover the basis of personality, identity, intelligence, memory, and perhaps disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. It also offers us a glimpse into a final understanding of the “nature vs nurture” debate, explaining how each experience in life fundamentally affects the connections in the brain – nurture shaping nature.

Join Sebastian Seung as he explains how this new map of a human "connectome" might even enable us to "upload" our brains into a computer, something limited solely to the realms of science fiction, until now.

Speaker: Dr. Sebastian Seung, professor of computational neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Physics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ~

Chair: Peter B. Reiner, professor, National Core for Neuroethics, Kinsmen Laboratory of Neurological Research, Department of Psychiatry & Brain Research Centre, the University of British Columbia

See what people said on Twitter: #RSASeung

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