The focus of Neuroscience is the structure and functionality of the nervous system. An important sub-specialty is brain or “thought” research, which has experienced a downright boom during the last decade. Recent research efforts have given brain research a new profile and brought significant results, not least thanks to the initiative “Dekade des Menschlichen Gehirns" ("Decade of the Human Brain"; USA 1990 - 1999; Germany 2000-2010).
To investigate the brain and its functions like thinking, feeling, learning, remembering, scientists apply different procedures, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetic resonance tomography (MRT). The new discipline of 'Computational Neuroscience' connects experiments, data analysis, theoretical modeling and computer simulation, and focuses on the conversion of the basic research into a target-oriented application. The basic research should help to discover how the mental condition correlates with human brain activity – the so-called deciphering of neuronal codes. Experiments in this field have already been very successful. Among other things, their discoveries have a marked influence on applied research.
Classical fields of applied research include:
- prevention and treatment of diseases of the nervous system
- development of more efficient teaching and learning strategies
- development of new, ‘intelligent’ technical aids like neuroprosthesis and powerful computer systems
- lie detection
Brain research is a field characterized by strong interdisciplinary cooperation, in which biologists, physicians, psychologists, physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists all work together closely. Hardly any research field other than that of neuroscience comes close to raising as many questions regarding medical, ethical, legal and social aspects, e.g. the debate on ‘free will’, or if it even is permissible to intrude in a person's mental sphere and personal privacy as a result of ‘brain reading’.