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Understanding the Human Brain

Editor’s Letter

The study of neuroscience dates back thousands of centuries, from Edwin Smith’s first written record of the nervous system in 1700 B.C. to Hippocrates’ discussion of epilepsy as a disturbance of the brain. Mankind has never given up on its pursuit to deepen our understanding of the intricacies and working of the human mind. As side from western medicine, Shen Nung, one of the founding Fathers of Chinese medicine believed to have introduced the technique of acupuncture in roughly 2700 B.C. Despite immense curiosity in the human brain, early neuroscientists lacked the adequate technology to gather substantial knowledge about our nervous system to explain many of its wonders.

Even until today, understanding and mechanisms of neurological disease pathophysiology and aetiology as well as many behavioural conditions such as autism spectrum disorder still remain much to be discovered.

Today, neuroscientists are able to leverage on other technologies in different fields to study the human brain. In the month’s issue, we discuss what it takes to map an entire human brain and what scientists and researchers have accomplished so far. (p.30) Researchers and scientists in the field have made use of high-powered microscopy and brain imaging techniques to create high-resolution images to create a connectome – a comprehensive map of all neural connections in the brain. Mapping of the human brain has also been made possible with the invention of supercomputers. The high computing power will allow better storage functions of all the datasets generated.

Genetic studies have also helped scientists and researchers better understand and identify risk of neurological diseases based on genome-wide association studies. A group of researchers from the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and the National Neuroscience Institute have been conducting studies on the genetics of Parkinson’s Disease in Asia. (p.24)

Switching back to the hot topic of the year, the COVID-19 Pandemic, this month in the Columns section we summarize the main types of diagnostic kits produced by Singapore-based companies and research institutions to meet the growing demand as cases continue to soar across the world. (p.20)

In the Spotlight, this month we interview Dr Ling Kai Yi, co-founder and Chief Science/ Technology Officer of ShiokMeats, a Singapore-based cell biology company focussing on producing clean meat. She discusses its motivations in creating sustainably produced shrimp through cell-based techniques. (p.38)

As the APBN team continues on our journey in pursuit of widening our knowledge in various topics of science and technology, we cannot help but recognize the interconnectivity between its individual disciplines and how they affect the world around us. We hope to continue to explore and discuss a broader range of subjects in science and technology as it evolves.

Deborah Emmanuel Seah Qing En