Our first Axios Science event focused on what we know — and don't know — about the human brain. Five researchers talked about what we might expect from research and technology to better understand the brain and its connection to human behavior and experience. As USC's Lon Schneider said:
"What's at stake is the prediction and control of human behavior or in medicine, and the prediction, control, and treatment of illness...How we work, function, interact, feel, what we're able to accomplish, and our autonomy."
More key takeaways from the program, which you can watch in full here (start at min. 44):
Eric Siemers from Eli Lilly: Despite decades of R&D, a successful drug for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's is yet to make it to market. People should remain optimistic because of recent advances in our understanding of the pathology of Alzheimer's and because while clinical trials haven't produced an available medicine, they are revealing some effects of drugs.
- "People should not just be patient. The more people that participate in clinical trials, the faster we'll get to that goal."
Hunter Hoffman from University of Washington: L.A. is the heart of virtual reality development — tens of thousands of people are here this week for the E3 gaming conference, with VR front and center. This technology has other applications, such as being used to alleviate pain for burn patients during treatment.
- A possible side effect of billions of dollars being invested in VR for gaming and entertainment is that "we're going to see a lot of improvement in the therapy."
Matt Grob from Qualcomm: One of his company's ultimate goals is creating brain-to-brain communication.
- "We're able to use miniaturization, wireless power, very low power electronics, very modern wireless techniques to make implants and sensors in new ways that weren't possible [before] so this day will come."
Doris Tsao from Caltech: In the past 20 years, major advances in neuroscience have come from tools but there are still some big questions to answer:
- "We don't understand how the brain is functioning. What we really need is new theories about how large groups of neurons can work together to enable memory, perception, decision-making, and thought."