NIH Director Francis Collins expressed his enthusiasm for the Human Connectome Project in a post on Nov 5th to the NIH Director’s Blog entitled “The symphony inside your brain”.
Dr. Collins calls connectome science “one of the most exciting areas of rapid progress in biomedical research”, focusing on the unprecedented way in which the HCP is looking at the brain’s structure in its entirety, making an analogy to the experience of listening to a whole symphony orchestra, rather than the string or brass section separately. He also highlights the possibilities this basic science project has to advance research on many brain disorders whose etiology is currently elusive.
Here is an excerpt that encapsulates his hopes for the HCP effort:
With a detailed connectome map of a normal human brain, I believe we will gain a better understanding of the roots of human neurological disorders, including schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and other baffling conditions that may arise from abnormal “wiring” during brain development. This knowledge should yield new and better ways to detect, treat, and, ultimately, prevent the brain disorders that currently disrupt and devastate so many lives.
The connectome will also give us a new tool to explore how genes influence the brain’s connections—and how behavioral and environmental factors act to sculpt those connections, affecting everything from our ability to solve crossword puzzles to our risk for addiction.