Evolution has come up with a variety of solutions for common problems that organisms face to survive and adapt to a complex and changing environment. We expect the brain circuits implementing these solutions to share common principles of circuit operation. However, to distill these principles, we need a comparative approach. The following quote nicely summarizes this motivation:

“The last common ancestor of all vertebrates lived 500 million years ago. Its rudimentary brain has been evolving ever since, leading to the mammalian brain about 100 million years ago, and the human brain a few million years ago. This unbroken chain of evolution has lead to an intricate brain structure with highly conserved computational elements, and immense system level modularity. In fact we currently lack any engineering design principles that can explain how a complex sensing, communication, control and memory network like the brain can continuously scale in size and complexity over 500 million years while never losing the ability to adaptively function in dynamic environments. Thus it may be very interesting for AI to take cues from the systems-level structure of the brain.” – Surya Ganguli

In the upcoming decades, high-throughput connectomic pipelines will provide an increasing number of synaptic level wiring diagrams of brain circuits. These circuits will provide the basis to compare different species, brain regions, and developmental stages in order to better understand their function and operating principles. The BrainCircuits.io platform aims to become a central hub for the emerging comparative connectomics community.


Stephan Gerhard, PhD

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