Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Episode 11: The Connectome

The connectome--a silly word and a somewhat simple concept that has caused significant debate amongst neuroscientists worldwide. In this episode, we teach the controversy surrounding the big C. First, we trudge through a definition of the connectome (it means different things to different people, but generally centers on mapping out what's connected to what in the brain), and methods used to obtain it. We then talk about what we've learned from the only animal for which we have the full connectome: the worm C. elegans. Then, via a comparison to the Human Genome Project (inspiration for the word "connectome"), we ask whether neuroscientists believe it's worth the money and the collective effort of the field to pursue the connectome in other animals. This leads us onto a tangent regarding how the public views neuroscience and whether it's morally acceptable to oversell work in order to gain funding. Ultimately, we end in a state of uncertainty, much like the field of neuroscience itself.

We read:
SciAm article on C. elegans connectome
NYT profile on Sebastian Seung

Other items of interest for this episode:
EyeWire: Crowd-sourcing neuron tracing
Grace's blog article on a genetic way of finding the connectome
Our Episode on tDCS
Our Episode on Neuroscience vs Psychology 

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here or use the player on the main page

CORRECTION: Reports of Larry Swanson's death have been greatly exaggerated.
In this episode, Josh says that USC professor Larry Swanson died recently. As it turns out, there is no evidence to support this. He seems to be alive and well.

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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