This article is published in the October 2014 issue.

CCC to hold a workshop on the Research Interfaces between Brain Science and Computer Science

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) will hold a BRAIN Workshop to bring together brain researchers and computer scientists for a scientific dialogue aimed at exposing new opportunities for joint research.

Today, understanding the structure and function of the human brain is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our generation. Decades of study and continued progress in our knowledge of neural function and brain architecture have led to important advances in brain science, but a comprehensive understanding of the brain still lies well beyond the horizon. How might computer science and brain science benefit from one another? The workshop will be aimed at questions such as the following:

  • What are the current barriers to mapping the architecture of the brain, and how can they be overcome?
  • What scale of data suffices for the discovery of “neural motifs,” and what might they look like?
  • What would be required to truly have a “neuron in-silico,” and how far are we from that?
  • How can we connect models across the various scales (biophysics – neural function – cortical functional units – cognition)?
  • Which computational principles of brain function can be employed to solve computational problems? What sort of platforms would support such work?
  • What advances are needed in hardware and software to enable true brain-computer interfaces? What is the right “neural language” for communicating with the brain?
  • How would one be able to test equivalence between a computational model and the modeled brain subsystem?
  • Suppose we could map the network of billions nodes and trillions connections that is the brain, how would we infer structure?
  • Can we create open-science platforms enabling computational science on enormous amounts of heterogeneous brain data (as it has happened in genomics)?
  • Is there a productive algorithmic theory of the brain, which can inform our search for answers to such questions?

The workshop organizing committee includes Polina Golland, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Gregory Hager, Johns Hopkins University; Christof Koch, Allen Institute; Christos Papadimitriou (Chair), University of California at Berkeley; Hanspeter Pfister, Harvard University; Tal Rabin, IBM; Stefan Schaal, University of Southern California; Joshua Tenenbaum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Kenneth Whang, National Science Foundation; Ross Whitaker, University of Utah; and Ann Drobnis, CCC Director.

The workshop will be held December 3-5 in Washington, DC. Additional information about the workshop can be found on the website.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ann Drobnis at