Evolution, Technology, and the Brain - Intel on AI Season 3, Episode 13
Jeff Lichtman is the Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard. He received an AB from Bowdoin and an M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University, where he worked for thirty years before moving to Cambridge. He is now a member of Harvard’s Center for Brain Science and director of the Lichtman lab, which focuses on connectomics—mapping neural connections and understanding their development.
In the podcast episode Jeff talks about why researching the physical structure of brain is so important to advancing science. He goes into detail about Brainbrow—a method he and Joshua Sanes developed to illuminate and trace the “wires” (axons and dendrites) connecting neurons to each other. Amir and Jeff discuss how the academic rivalry between Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Camillo Golgi pioneered neuroscience research. Jeff describes his remarkable research taking nanometer slices of brain tissue, creating high-resolution images, and then digitally reconstructing the cells and synapses to get a more complete picture of the brain. The episode closes with Jeff and Amir discussing theories about how the human brain learns and what technologists might discover from the grand challenge of mapping the entire nervous system.
Academic research discussed in the podcast episode:
- Principles of Neural Development.
- The reorganization of synaptic connexions in the rat submandibular ganglion during post-natal development.
- Development of the neuromuscular junction: Genetic analysis in mice.
- A technicolour approach to the connectome.
- The big data challenges of connectomics.
- Imaging Intracellular Fluorescent Proteins at Nanometer Resolution.
- Stimulated emission depletion (STED) nanoscopy of a fluorescent protein-labeled organelle inside a living cell.
- High-resolution, high-throughput imaging with a multibeam scanning electron microscope.
- Saturated Reconstruction of a Volume of Neocortex.
- A connectomic study of a petascale fragment of human cerebral cortex.
- A Canonical Microcircuit for Neocortex.