Wiersma Visiting Professor Lecture: Christof Koch
Title: Building and Operating Brain Observatories – What Have We Learned?
Abstract: Large-scale neuronal recordings throughout the brain of behaving animals are now feasible using either electrophysiological recordings or multi-photon calcium imaging. I will highlight our experience at the Allen Institute in Seattle, a non-profit medical research organization, in building brain observatories to record and analyze the activities of tens to hundred thousand of neurons throughout visual cortex in behaving mice and to analyze their connectivity at the microscopic level. Anybody can access this data via our data portal without any restriction (www.brain-map.org). These achievements can also be considered an experiment in the sociology of biology.
The scale and cost of the necessary instruments and procedures, the attendant requirements for standardization, and the volumes of the associated data streams are beginning to exceed the capabilities of individual laboratories. In analogy to trends in 20th century particle physics and astronomy, I argue that the time is ripe to build professional staffed, stand-alone brain observatories for community-driven large-scale cellular recordings, in conjunction with cloud-based data ingestion, machine learning and analysis tools. This will enhance equity in the field, by providing accessibility to advance tools to everyone, as well as to the production of highly reproducible and publicly accessible cellular surveys and to economics of scale. It will speed up the discovery of the principles that link the flickering activities of large assemblies of specific neurons to perception, memory, behavior, and consciousness.