One of the strangest and most wondrous things in the universe is the human brain.
Weighing about three pounds for the average adult, within the brain are 100 billion neurons that give us the ability to see, smell and move, as well as think, weep, talk and read. Furthermore, all we experience and remember – in essence, every little thing that makes us who we are – is rooted in the neocortex, the seat of the "thinking" brain. Understanding how such a miracle is possible is the vast mission of the relatively young field of neuroscience.
In the past few decades, researchers have learned much about the fundamental workings of the brain, with tremendous gains in knowledge about the molecules that make it run. Now armed with the human genome and a combination of cutting-edge genetic methods and brain imaging techniques, lab scientists are now exploring the neural circuitry of living animals in ways they could likely have never dreamed of even just 20 years ago.