Future technology mimics the human brain - Tampere University of Technology

Future technology mimics the human brain

Marja-Leena Linne has pioneered research in computational neuroscience and neuroinformatics in Finland. The two fields have the potential to provide a platform for future information systems and contribute to our understanding of neurological and psychological disorders.

Senior Researcher, Dr. Marja-Leena Linne heads the Computational Neuroscience Laboratory at the Department of Signal Processing of TUT. Linne was among the first scientists in Finland to explore this new and exciting area of neuroscience. She initially became interested in the field while working as a researcher in the USA.

TUT’s Computational Neuroscience Laboratory develops new mathematical models of the molecular and cellular functions in the brain. It has been recognized as one of the world's leading research groups in this field.

“We’ve especially explored new research directions relating to the development of stochastic models. Such models are needed to analyse the workings of the brain that is in a perpetual state of flux.”

Informatics helps uncover mysteries of the brain

Conventional experimental neuroscience has produced a wealth of detailed information on brain functions, but the brain still remains the most poorly understood organ of the body. Neuroinformatics provides new insights into brain functions through the application of information technology and informatics tools. Neuroinformatics studies brain functions using computational models and simulations as well as signal processing and image analysis tools and develops databases for storing and sharing data.

“Our research is aimed at achieving a better understanding of how the brain learns and processes information at different levels of physical organization, ranging from molecular into network level phenomena. Once we have a comprehensive computational model of these processes, we’ll be able to develop technological applications, such as robotics that imitate the behaviour of the human brain,” says Marja-Leena Linne.

Information systems are another interesting application area. Neuroinformatics could enable the development of systems that mimic the way our brain stores and retrieves information.

The more we know about brain disorders, the easier it is to develop new drugs and treatments. For example, diseases that affect memory are becoming increasingly common.

“If we can understand our brain’s complex reactions to environmental stimuli, we will be better able to identify potentially detrimental changes that may trigger health problems.”

In addition, neuroinformatics contributes to the creation of new health information systems. An example of this is a system that is currently being developed in Finland to monitor and improve the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.

Better access to research data

TUT has a front-row seat to neuroinformatics research. The International Neuroinformatics Coordination Facility’s (INCF) National Node of Finland is located in the Department of Signal Processing at TUT and coordinated by Marja-Leena Linne. Hundreds of researchers from around the world are involved in programmes administered by INCF.

INCF’s mission is to serve as a bridge between neuroscientists and neuroinformaticists. The human brain is the subject of intense scientific interest worldwide, but research data is often only limitedly available to other researchers. INCF promotes access to data and computing resources within the international scientific community.

Neuroinformatics stands at the interface of several disciplines. At TUT, it brings together researchers with expertise in signal processing, software engineering, mathematics and biosciences.

“INCF’s National Node of Finland is located at TUT partly because we have a comprehensive approach to brain research. We examine how the human brain functions at all levels, from network to neuron to molecule,” says Linne.

Updated by: Mika Puonti, 21.12.2012 13:30.
Keywords: science and research, computational neuroscience, neuroinformatics