THe INternational Brain Laboratory

A central goal of neuroscience is to decode the brain activity responsible for decisions and actions. Imagine an animal foraging for food. First, the animal needs to evaluate sensory signals in its environment to judge which foods are currently available. Then, the animal must decide which of the available food choices will be the most rewarding and make a plan for action.

The neural mechanisms supporting that seemingly simple process are incredibly complex. Until very recently, the field has lacked the tools to read out neural activity at the scale necessary to understand even the simplest choices. A recent explosion in new techniques and accompanying theoretical advances has opened a window into how the brain makes choices. But a serious challenge remains: harnessing these new tools effectively is beyond the reach of any single laboratory. While individual labs have made significant advances, the piecemeal approach has so far made it difficult to compare, combine and reproduce experiments across different labs

The International Brain Laboratory, a joint effort funded by the Simons Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, will combine the efforts of twenty laboratories worldwide to focus on a single goal: to determine how the brain functions during a simple decision in a mouse. The mouse will be trained to make decisions about visual stimuli while we measure neural activity brainwide. We will make precise electrical recordings of hundreds of neurons from many brain areas and use sophisticated microscopes to directly observe the brain in action. Leading computational neuroscientists will develop mathematical and computer models of this brain activity. The aim is not only to discover how brains support decision-making in any animal, humans included, but also to offer a new model for large-scale collaboration in neuroscience.

Our group is a founding member of the International Brain Laboratory. For more information, consult the IBL website. For a manifesto describing the principles driving IBL, please read this commentary