How does the brain interact with the world?

Perhaps the greatest scientific challenge of our time is to understand the link between brain activity and human behaviour. By elucidating the core principles of brain activity underlying perceptual and cognitive functions in our everyday lives, we aim to understand how the brain interacts with the world. Detailed knowledge gained over the last century may soon lead to mechanistic explanations of our experiences, actions and thoughts.

However, this level of deep understanding of different aspects of brain structure and function requires coordinated, multi-scale, multidisciplinary investigations, which are beyond the reach of any single laboratory.

Opening a world of possibilities

Knowing how the activity of brain cells mediates the way we interact with the world unlocks tremendous possibilities. Take a moment to imagine:

  • practical vehicles controlled by thought
  • machine-brain interfaces to enhance our natural senses
  • technologies for accelerated learning
  • portable instruments for diagnosing brain diseases
  • biomimetic robots.

Such developments will require much deeper knowledge of brain anatomy and physiology than we currently possess, which is why we have created a critical mass of leading Australian brain researchers to work together.

Integrating research

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function aims to further the understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying attention, prediction and decision, via research projects that cross two or more of the Centre’s Research Themes:

  1. Cells and Synapses
  2. Neural Circuits
  3. Brain Systems
  4. Models and Technologies

Our research plan increasingly emphasises studies applying multi-scale integrative approaches in human and animal models.

Recent research highlights include discovering:

  • the brain’s ability to detect subtle irregularities in the environment when attention is focused elsewhere
  • highly connected brain regions that send and receive large volumes of messages share similar patterns of gene activity
  • how the parahippocampal cortex performs both recognition of visual scenes and assigns context to objects, with each function having its own sub-region
  • the development of a new 3D imaging method to trace individual nerve cell projections between the brain and spinal cord of mice.