March 8, 2017

New opinion article proposes an approach linking brain organisation stages from genes to consciousness

In the article, entitled "Climbing brain levels of organisation from genes to consciousness", Prof. Changeux proposes and approach that offers insights into the long-distance connection between genes and cognitive functions, including the relationship between brain development and sociocultural environment. The strategy links the stages of brain organisation at four structural levels: genes; transcription factors (TF)-gene networks; synaptic epigenesist; and, long-range connectivity.

There are several international programs that aim to our advance understanding of the human brain using different approaches, but some serious challenges still remain. One of these is that much of the data generated do not allude to the molecular level, an essential aspect for drug design. In addition, modelling studies rarely take into account evolutionary and developmental dynamics of brain organisation, and microprocessor models may not fully represent synaptic and neuronal dynamics. The various concepts and data from disparate brain disciplines therefore need to be integrated into a unified framework of brain biology and development.

Prof. Changeux puts forward a framework to connect these levels via interlevel bridging processes that operate both top-down and bottom-up, and also considers the different timescales apparent during the brain's development. The strategy proposed could help integrate these discrete brain disciplines and the wealth of data generated, and may pave the way towards new IT modelling approaches that integrate multiple timescale dynamics. As well as insights into the relationships between genes and functions, the strategy also proposes how these relationships might be altered in brain disorders. Prof. Changeux hopes that the proposed framework may help to unify the varied multidisciplinary approaches aimed at understanding the human brain.

The full text of the paper is available on the Trends in Cognitive Sciences website.

A new opinion article by Jean-Pierre Changeux in Trends in Cognitive Sciences presents a new approach to link the stages of brain organisation from genes to consciousness.