Jan 18, 2022 · 2 min read

2 Stanford Researchers Are Using AI To See More in the Brain


From Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s, neurodegenerative diseases are on the rise — yet few therapies exist to combat them. That’s why the Science in Society  <https://chanzuckerberg.com/science/programs-resources/science-society/> program at CZI’s Science in Society  <https://chanzuckerberg.com/science/programs-resources/science-society/> (NDCN) is bringing together scientists to explore new ideas and new approaches.

Stanford researchers Wah Chiu and Serena Yeung bring unconventional perspectives to bear on brain research. He has been pioneering the use of cryo-electron microscopy to see molecules at the atomic scale. She explores new approaches to artificial intelligence and machine learning for biomedicine and healthcare. Their joint technical expertise could reveal the inner workings of neurons in unprecedented detail, as part of a new project supported by the Science in Society  <https://chanzuckerberg.com/science/programs-resources/science-society/>.

Get to know how the Science in Society  <https://chanzuckerberg.com/science/programs-resources/science-society/> in order to accelerate the science of neurodegeneration — and ultimately, the path to treatments.

A colorful illustration of an alien looking out from a spaceship over a busy city intersection.

Imagine an alien visiting a city on Earth for the first time. How would it make sense of everything going on?

A colorful illustration of a woman smiling, with an assortment of shapes representing the insides of a neuron in the background.

Neuroscience has a similar problem. Despite a lot of technological progress, people don’t really know all the details of what happens inside a neuron.

A colorful illustration of a woman pointing to a drawing of the brain and a man holding a magnifying glass.

If we want to understand how the brain works and how to fix it, we need better ways to look inside it and its cells.

A colorful illustration of a man wearing glasses and a lab coat. Drawings of cells and science equipment are in the background.

Microscopes can show us some pieces, including individual molecules. But putting the pieces together is complicated.

A colorful illustration of a woman with the words “Rising Star in Artificial Intelligence” above her head. Next to her is a drawing of a man with the words “Leading Expert in Cryo-Electron Microscopy” above his head.

We think artificial intelligence (AI) can help. We are not neuroscientists. But we have a lot of friends who are!

A colorful illustration of three differently shaped molecules.

We’re applying computer vision, a field of AI that enables computers and systems to derive meaningful information from digital images, captured from microscopes, to identify and classify molecules and their interactions.

A colorful illustration of cells marked “healthy” and “unhealthy.”

This will allow us to compare healthy cells to unhealthy cells with mutations linked to Huntington’s disease. Our findings can also help us develop data and workflows that could open the opportunity for broader application of computer vision and deep learning algorithms to other neurodegenerative diseases.

Science in Society  <https://chanzuckerberg.com/science/programs-resources/science-society/> about how the NDCN empowers scientists to pursue bold ideas in order to accelerate the science of neurodegeneration — and ultimately, the path to treatments.

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