"Multiscale Challenges in Brain Science: Bridging Gaps in Knowledge and Understanding"

Mark H. Ellisman, Ph.D., Karolinska Institute, Stockholm and UC, San Diego

November 29th (Monday), 3:00pm
Engineering Science Building (ESB), Rm 1001

A grand goal in neuroscience research is to understand how the interplay of structural, chemical and electrical signals in and between cells of nervous tissue gives rise to behavior. We are rapidly approaching this horizon as neuroscientists make use of an increasingly powerful arsenal of tools and technologies for obtaining data, from the level of molecules to nervous systems, and engage in the arduous and challenging process of adapting and assembling neuroscience data at all scales of resolution and across disciplines into computerized databases. The need for a scalable and available knowledge environment and frameworks or systems to link knowledge have captured the attention of many who now work at the hybrid interface of neuroscience and information sciences – sometimes called “neuroinformatics”. This talk will highlight some of the tools and data available today, illustrating what tomorrow’s neuroscientists might expect from neuroinformatics in an era in which scientific discoveries will hinge increasingly on the development and use of telecommunications and information technology.

A consolidated strategy for integrating neuroscience data has been to provide a multi-scale structural or spatial scaffold on which existing and accruing elements of neuroscience knowledge can be located and relationships explored from any network-linked computer. However, even data taken at similar scales from different sites, like structural and functional MRI data, are difficult to merge in the absence of agreed upon standards that would allow such non-invasive brain imaging data to be brought together. Similarly, efforts to integrate multi-scale data from different methods using a common spatial framework are hampered by incomplete descriptions of the microscopic or molecular anatomy of nervous systems. While some spatial and temporal scales are well studied and described, there are many domains where current methods have provided only sparse descriptions. Progress toward overcoming these obstacles, including approaches to bring spatial frameworks with emerging representations of knowledge in systems biology will be discussed. These and other approaches for integrating neuroscience knowledge will be highlighted using examples from activities of current projects.

About Mark H. Ellisman, Ph.D.:

Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1976 in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. In addition to being a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Ellisman has received numerous awards including a Jacob Javits award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation. His UCSD teaching and lecturing awards include the Department of Neurosciences Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1987 and 1992, and he was selected by UCSD as the University Lecturer in BioMedicine in 2001. He also served as the interdisciplinary coordinator for the NSF-supported National Partnership for Advanced Computing Infrastructure (NPACI) and led the Neuroscience activities for NPACI and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) promoting biomedical research and emerging cyber infrastructure.

Ellisman is the quintessential interdisciplinary translator - a cell and molecular biologist working at the interface between biological systems and advanced computational infrastructure. He is a world-renowned biologist and computational scientist having pioneered many new technologies including the development and application of advanced 3D imaging technologies to obtain new information about cell structure and function. His research group was the first to introduce the idea of "Telemicroscopy" by demonstrating the network-enabled remote use and sharing of a high energy electron microscope in 1992 and then developed practical systems now in use by researchers in the US and abroad. This was the first example of a complete "cyberinfrastructure" system. The NSF and NIH have supported Ellisman and his team to extend these early efforts to build collaboration and data sharing environments for numerous research communities through NSF Grand Challenge awards and other large center grants. Most notable of these are the NIH's Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN) and the NIH-supported infrastructure which Links Animal Models to Human Disease (LAMHDI); the Waitt Foundation supported "Whole Brain Catalog"; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supported "CAMERA"; a Community Cyberinfrastructure for Advanced Microbial Ecology Research and Analysis"; and, the Organization of Economic Cooperative Developments Neuroscience Information Framework (INCF). These national and international projects are considered the exemplars for modern cyberinfrastructure in biology and are being used to model new cyber developments ranging from medical domains to bioenergy and plant sciences. Ellisman continues to bring practical experience to new projects bridging biological science and engineering disciplines orchestrating the construction and operation of shared cyberinfrastructure systems to enable discovery and education.

Hosted by: Engineering Science Building (ESB), Rm 1001