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Friday, 17 August 2007


Bob Mottram

I'm also sceptical about some of Kurzweil's claims - especially the 250 pills per day aspect - but I think that reverse engineering of the brain may happen sooner than most people believe.

A few months ago I was writing some software for automatic detection of neurons and their processes from microscope images on www.brainmaps.org. This seems to be quite feasible, with the main problem being registration of successive slices. Although this requires a large amount of computing power it does seem like it will be feasible in the near future. In this way you can build detailed three dimensional models of the physical architecture of an entire brain, down to the level of individual axons and dendrites. The reconstruction wouldn't be perfect, and there is of course more to what's going on than just the physical layout, but it would probably give significant clues about the way that the brain is organised at both a global and fine scale. Chatting with the people who run the BrainMaps site they say the next step would be to use a laser scanner rather than optical imaging to get even higher detail. Although this involves larger amounts of hard disk storage again it's not an intractable problem, with the storage space required likely to be available on commodity PC hardware within a few years.

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