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5 unsolved mysteries about the brain

Published in Brain/Neurology, General News, Organisations.

Can we understand our own brains? We have a long way to go, neuroscientists say.

If you ask Christof Koch, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and President of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, how close we are to understanding our own brains, he scoffs.

“We don’t even understand the brain of a worm,” Koch said.

The lab roundworm, more technically known as Caenorhabditis elegans, houses 302 neurons and 7,000 connections between those neurons in its microscopic body. Researchers have painstakingly mapped and described all those connections in recent years. And we still don’t fully understand how they all work synergistically to give rise to the worm’s behaviors.

We humans have approximately 86 billion neurons in our brains, woven together by an estimated 100 trillion connections, or synapses. It’s a daunting task to understand the details of how those cells work, let alone how they come together to make up our sensory systems, our behavior, our consciousness.

We asked Koch and his neuroscience colleagues to reflect on how much we still don’t know about the brain, and how these researchers are trying to solve those mysteries.