Can He Decode the Brain Using Math and AI?

  • Using computers to decode the brain


Can we identify the neural activity responsible for behavior?

Over the past 100 years, massive strides have been made in the understanding of our bodies and what makes us tick. This understanding has helped us create new medicines, drugs and treatments that have almost eliminated diseases that were fatal in the not so distant past. But despite the incredible advancements that have taken place over the last century, our understanding of the brain is still in its relative infancy.

Sumner Magruder is looking to change that. Though he just graduated from Rhodes College, Magruder’s research into the brain goes far beyond the typical undergraduate education. Most recently, as part of an effort to create a comprehensive model that explains social decision-making, Magruder and his labmates have been hard at work analyzing the brain to identify the neural circuits responsible for behavioral response.

But while many would consider this the realm of biology, Magruder’s work includes computer science, mathematics and AI—an approach to neuroscience with exciting possibilities for our future understanding of the brain, but also with its own unique challenges.

The staggering amount of data from a lizard’s brain

Brain scansAmong these challenges has been managing the data generated by his research. Magruder and his colleagues have worked with smaller animals like lizards to conduct full brain analyses, rather than researching specific regions as is often done when studying the larger human brain. But while these lizard brains are much smaller, a full analysis still generates a staggering amount of data, made up of stacks of high resolution images.

And as these file sizes increased, so too did the need for a data storage solution that could not only store and transport the files safely, but also not get bogged down by transferring these huge file. He also needed a solution that would allow him to quickly access and move his data to power his research. Magruder made the choice to go with the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2, and immediately saw the benefits.

How fast can I analyze the data?

“The 2big is incredibly efficient and convenient, and really streamlines my workflow,” Magruder said. “The speed of transfer is unreal and the daisy-chaining is a nice benefit. A lot of my time used to be eaten up in retrieving and saving these large image files, which bogged down how fast I could analyze the data. But having such a reliable and quick connection to my info makes the whole process so much more enjoyable.”

With Magruder working on a number of projects in different labs, losing his research data could be absolutely catastrophic. While he was familiar with LaCie from a previous project, what he calls the “endless lauding” from mentors, friends and colleagues was what finally convinced Magruder to go with LaCie for his data storage needs.

“LaCie is passionate about protecting data, which is evident by the design of their products,” Magruder explained. “The 2big has two swappable drives, it’s backwards-compatible with previous USBs, and it’s quiet and cool in aluminum. Plus, it’s topped with a 3-year warranty, which is really uncommon for most tech products these days.”

With data storage no longer a concern, Magruder is free to concentrate fully on his work, with LaCie there to protect his findings every step of the way.



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