Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT researchers join collaborative research project to study brain connections

Breyona Mitchell

A UT professor will join the Center for Mesoscale Connectomics, a collaborative, multi-institutional center to study brain connections funded through a $16 million grant from the National Institute of Health in September

“The center will study brain connections using multiple species (and) looking at different animals and humans,” psychology professor Franco Pestilli said. 

Pestilli said while historically the scientific community has been thinking about the brain like a computer, researchers have realized in the last 10-15 years that a better analogy is to compare the brain to the Internet. 

“There’s computers in different parts of the brain, and these computers, just like the Internet, are connected with cables, which are the brain connections,” Pestilli said.

“This work is important to the overall BRAIN Initiative Connectivity Across Scales (BRAIN CONNECTS) program, as it will lay the groundwork for understanding the connections between the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, with an eventual goal of mapping connections across the whole brain,” the NIH BRAIN Initiative said in an email.

Pestilli said researchers will use MRI technology to measure different aspects of the brain, brain anatomy and brain function. 

“We can measure whether this part of the brain is connected to these parts of the brain and we can measure the health (of the connections),” Pestilli said. 

While other researchers at different institutions will be focused on developing new technologies like microscopes and new imaging modalities, the University team will run a cloud platform that does data management and processing called to centralize the data, Pestilli said.

“It’s not just about the science, but it’s also about the data generation process and sharing the data with the wider community because we understand now that sharing data is really important for the advancement of science,” Pestilli said.

The research will lead to increased knowledge on brain development and the mitigation of brain diseases, Anibal Solon Heinsfeld, a computer science PhD student and a researcher on the project, said in an email. 

“I am excited about the challenges brought by supporting different studies, in which each have their own set of particularities, but also to be a part of such (a) central role in open science, making analyses and results open to the scientific community for their benefit,” Heinsfeld said.

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About the Contributor
Breyona Mitchell, Associate Comics Editor
Breyona is a sophomore english and studio art double major from Houston, Texas. Currently, they work as the associate comics editor and has previously drawn for the paper as a senior artist. They love playing video games with their friends.