We know that the brain is complex, consisting of around 80 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections – that’s more than the number of stars in our galaxy!

Discovering how the brain gives rise to behaviour

13 March 2019

How does the brain allow us to think, feel, see, smell, hear, laugh and love?

While many ideas have been suggested over the centuries, we still don’t have a comprehensive theory that allows us to understand how activity in the brain generates these experiences.

We know that the brain is complex, consisting of around 80 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections – that’s more than the number of stars in our galaxy! Understanding how such an elaborate network functions is one of the most daunting challenges in science.

And while we have increasingly advanced tools that are generating a wealth of data about the brain, we still lack coherent theories that can be tested in the laboratory.

By bringing together world-leading experimental and computational neuroscientists, the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre’s mission is to explain how activity in brain circuits gives rise to thoughts, sensations, memories and actions.

Research at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre focuses on three fundamental questions:

  • How does the brain generate representations of the world?
  • How does the brain make decisions? And…
  • How does the brain form memories?

How do we achieve this? Using a range of cutting-edge techniques, neuroscientists record from hundreds of cells in multiple brain regions simultaneously and impose patterns of activity using light to go beyond observations and correlations in an attempt to elucidate causation.

Working closely with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, located at the core of the building, the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre offers a uniquely collaborative environment with an open science ethos. Together experimentalists and theorists make predictions about how brain cells interact.

State-of-the-art laboratories, workshops and computing facilities provide scientists with the latest tools to carry out experiments to gain a deeper glimpse into how these complex circuits function.

A pioneering international PhD programme provides training in both experimental and computational methods, equipping the next generation of neuroscientists with the knowledge and tools to understand the brain.

By working together with the vibrant community of UCL in the heart of London and collaborating with scientists around the world, the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre is part of a global network of researchers tackling the big questions in neuroscience.