Mark H. Ellisman
University of San Diego, USA
Title: Integrating Neuroscience Knowledge: Brain Research in the Digital Age
Abstract: A grand goal in neuroscience research is to understand how the interplay of structural, chemical and electrical signals in nervous tissue gives rise to behavior. We are rapidly approaching this horizon as neuroscientists make use of an increasingly powerful arsenal of instruments and tools for obtaining data, from the level of molecules to nervous systems, and engage in the arduous and challenging process of adapting and assembling neuroscience data at all scales of resolution and across disciplines into computerized databases. A consolidated strategy for integrating neuroscience data has been to provide a multi-scale structural or spatial scaffold on which existing and accruing elements of neuroscience knowledge can be located and relationships explored from any network-linked computer. Similarly, efforts to integrate multi-scale microscopy data from different imaging methods using a common spatial framework are hampered by incomplete descriptions of the microanatomy of nervous systems. While some spatial and temporal scales are well studied and described, there are many domains where current methods have provided only sparse descriptions. Multi-scale imaging activities currently providing data to populate this brain information scaffold will be highlighted, with particular reference to those emerging with capabilities to facilitate mapping at a resolution of one nm to 10's of µm - a dimensional range that encompasses macromolecular complexes, organelles, and multi-component structures such as synapses and cellular interactions in the context of the complex organization of the brain. This effort also provides multi-scale structural frameworks for construction of models being used to test hypotheses not amenable to direct experimental analysis using software tools that allow for computational simulation of microphysiological properties of nervous systems.
Bio sketch: Dr. Mark Ellisman is Professor of Neurosciences and Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego.
In 1988, Ellisman established the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR) to achieve greater understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system by developing three-dimensional light and electron microscopy methods spanning dimensions from 5nm^3 to 50µm^3 . Ellisman, also a founding fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, has received numerous awards including the Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigatory Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Since 1996, he has been serving as the founding director of the UCSD Center for Research in Biological Systems (CRBS) and has received several teaching awards, including the Department of Neurosciences Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1987 and 1992, and was named the University Lecturer in Biomedicine in 2001. He is also the interdisciplinary coordinator for the National Partnership for Advanced Computing Infrastructure (NPACI) and led NPACI's Neuroscience thrust, which involves integration of brain research and advanced computing and communications technologies.
In 2001, Ellisman founded the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN), a NIH initiative that provides a multiscale imaging infrastructure linking major neuroimaging centers around the country.
The BIRN builds infrastructure and technologies to enable large-scale biomedical data mining and refinement. The following year, he was appointed to the National Advisory Council of the NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and to the Physics Division Review Committee of the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Dr. Ellisman is recognized nationally and internationally for helping to pioneer the development of new technologies that enhance neurobiological and clinical research. His laboratory is actively pursuing several research tracks that are yielding seminal contributions to neuroscience.