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Surprising Science

Billionaire Wants to Solve Brain’s Mysteries

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has committed $300 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science, doubling its staff of scientists, to map the brain's basic circuitry of perception.

What’s the Latest Development?

Microsoft co-founder and science enthusiast Paul Allen will donate $300 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science, doubling its staff of scientists and technicians, to study the brain’s basic circuitry of perception. “The aim is to systematically explore the roots of vision and decision-making by analyzing the billions of cells and synapses in the brain’s cerebral cortex, which plays a critical role in vision, memory and awareness.” To do so, the laboratory will create a series of ‘brain observatories’, computational tools that will map neural behavior. 

What’s the Big Idea?

By scaling resources, the Allen Institute is able to accomplish feats that most laboratories cannot, the majority being staffed with graduate students concentrated on writing papers for academic journals. “Our dream is to uncover the essence of what makes us human,” Mr. Allen said. “There is really no greater challenge with a potentially more huge impact than understanding how brains work.” It’s flagship project to date is a $55 million atlas of the structure of the human brain, compiling biochemistry and genetics, along with tools to analyze the data.

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