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The Brain Engineering Laboratory at Dartmouth

Director: Prof. Richard Granger
Computer Science and Cognitive Science Departments


Our brains enable us effortlessly to recognize objects, voices, locations, people, and actions, and to use this information to plan and act in pursuit of our goals. It's easy: these tasks are so natural for us that we don't notice ourselves working at them.

Yet hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent trying to get computers to perform these tasks. If we had machines that could understand sights and sounds as we do, we would be able to build systems that could automatically drive a car, or understand phone messages, or help bedridden patients get things from the fridge.

The only reason we can effortlessly perform these tasks is that we are using an engine that is the most complex object in the known universe. Our brains are far more intricate than a nuclear reactor, or a supercomputer, or a Mars lander. To understand them requires collaboration among multiple specialties, including neuroanatomy, physiology, biochemistry, psychology, mathematics, computation and engineering.

Our laboratory studies the detailed anatomical structure, physiological mechanisms, and pharmacology of specific brain circuits, analyzing their operations, constructing and testing mathematical and computational models, and building applications.

Based on the biological rules that our brains use to learn and remember, novel and powerful computational systems have been developed that encode, organize, retrieve, and use information.

As might be expected of circuitry evolved to process complex environmental information, these systems have been shown to recognize complex signals to a degree that has matched or exceed the capabilities of more conventional approaches, in tests carried out in government, commercial, and medical settings, and versions of these systems are now under development for applications in a range of domains.

As the mechanisms underlying our thoughts and actions become clearer, we inevitably will gain insights into our own perceptions and motivations. Deepening our scientific understanding of the brain will also aid us in our struggle against the many maladies that can disastrously affect it, from Alzheimer's Disease to schizophrenia. Our work has involved us closely in the development of new drugs that are under active investigation in the pharmaceutical industry, and new diagnostic methods that are being clinically tested as aids to doctors for the earliest possible identification of brain diseases.



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