This was one of the final questions posed by Claudia Wiedemann of Nature Reviews Neuroscience to the Kavli prize winners in neuroscience, James Rothman of Yale, Richard Scheller of Genentech, and Thomas Südhof of Stanford (NRN 11, 669-673).
For me, the biggest unknown is neither at the molecular level, nor at the systems level, as much as there is still to be found at both. There must be a basic logic at the level of local circuitry that enables correlations and comparisons to be made with weighted outcomes (according to emotional tone). That is fundamentally what a brain does. For example, cortex has the same remarkable multi-layered histology throughout, and cortex anywhere seems to be able to differentiate, depending on its inputs, to assume the normal function of any other region. I know that oversimplifies, but it is essentially true and totally remarkable. The logic at the circuitry level that permits this is a complete mystery. – James Rothman, Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences; Chair, Department of Cell Biology, Yale University
I believe that we are entering an age in which diseases of the nervous system will be approachable from a much more mechanistic viewpoint. This will happen due to a combination of molecular and cellular studies, as described above, along with human genetics studies. It will be very gratifying to help people with disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, spinal cord injuries and stroke. – Richard Scheller, Executive Vice President of Research and Early Development, Genentech
[T]he future of neuroscience is to use molecular understanding as the basis on which to build a systems view, and not the opposite way around. – Thomas Südhof, Avram Goldstein Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Stanford University School of Medicine