Cartographers of the Brain: Mapping the Connectome

Scientists are attempting to map the wiring of the nearly 100 billion neurons in the human brain. Are we close to uncovering the mysteries of the mind or are we only at the beginning of a new frontier?

PARTICIPANTS: Deanna Barch, Jeff Lichtman, Nim Tottenham, David Van Essen
MODERATOR: John Hockenberry
Original program date: JUNE 4, 2017


Imagine navigating the globe with a map that only sketched out the continents. That’s pretty much how neuroscientists have been operating for decades. But one of the most ambitious programs in all of neuroscience, the Human Connectome Project, has just yielded a “network map” that is shedding light on the intricate connectivity in the brain. Join leading neuroscientists and psychologists as they explore how the connectome promises to revolutionize treatments for psychiatric and neurological disorders, answer profound questions regarding the electrochemical roots of memory and behavior, and clarify the link between our upbringing and brain development.

Prof. Robert Sapolsky – The Neuroscience Behind Behavior

Robert Sapolsky is an American neuroendocrinologist and author. He is currently a professor of biology, and professor of neurology and neurological sciences and, by courtesy, neurosurgery, at Stanford University.

Recorded: May 2017

The Brain That Changes Itself

There’s so much about the human brain that continues to baffle and mystify our top medical researchers, but one aspect of its complex design is starting to come into focus. Contrary to previous widely held beliefs, the human brain exists in a perpetual state of constant change. The documentary The Brain That Changes Itself explores these groundbreaking findings as heralded in a book of the same title by psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Norman Doidge.

For four hundred years, the common perception was that the brain worked much like a computer, and its functionalities were set as firmly in place as any machine. But what if the brain is actually morphing and maturing at all times based upon the stimuli of its environment? Such a notion, as argued by Dr. Droidge, would alter our perspectives on brain disease and dysfunction, and revolutionize our understanding of human nature itself.

The revolution began with the discovery of neuroplasticity, a term used to describe the structural changes of neurons in response to factors like environment, thought processes, and bodily injury. The phenomenon of neuroplasticity provides evidence of the brain’s stunning malleability, and its inherent capacity to overcome and adapt to even the most severe challenges. Ongoing studies are indicating that in many cases, the healthy parts of the brain can be recruited to supplant those that are defective.

Dr. Droidge has not come to these conclusions on his own. They result from the tireless efforts of some of the world’s most progressive medical scientists. The Brain That Changes Itself introduces us to many of these brilliant figures as well as a host of patients who have benefited from their brave new world of research. Their findings offer hope to victims of crippling neurological conditions like stroke, cerebral palsy, and chronic depression.

The implications set forth are not limited to the treatment of traumatic injury. This exciting realm of medical science can point the way to a more enlightened existence, and unlock a potential in the human species never before believed possible. For that reason alone, this film is a fascinating exploration that is relevant to all viewers.