Researchers unite in quest for ‘standard model’ of the brain

By Alison Abbott

Leading neuroscientists are joining forces to study the brain — in much the same way that physicists team up in mega-projects to hunt for new particles.

The International Brain Lab (IBL), launched on 19 September, combines 21 of the foremost neuroscience laboratories in the United States and Europe into a giant collaboration that will develop theories of how the brain works by focusing on a single behaviour shared by all animals: foraging. The Wellcome Trust in London, and the Simons Foundation in Washington DC have together committed more than US$13 million over five years to kick-start the IBL.

The pilot effort is an attempt to shake up cellular neuroscience, conventionally done by individual labs studying the role of a limited number of brain circuits during simple behaviours. The ‘virtual’ IBL lab will instead ask how a mouse brain, in its entirety, generates complex behaviours in constantly changing environments that mirror natural conditions. 

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