Many brain researchers cannot see the forest for the trees. When they use electrodes to record the activity patterns of individual neurons, the patterns often appear chaotic and difficult to interpret. “But when you zoom out from looking at individual cells, and observe a large number of neurons instead, their global activity is very informative,” says Mattia Rigotti, a scientist at Columbia University and New York University who is supported by the SNSF and the Janggen-Pöhn-Stiftung. Publishing in “Nature” together with colleagues from the United States, he has shown that these difficult-to-interpret patterns in particular are especially important for complex brain functions.
I have also been concerned by the fact that the up-front costs of setting up think tanks in developing countries seem to be rather high. And donors are not always willing to take risks with young researchers or small organisations. As a consequence, most funds go to the same few organisations and the popular names. This reduces the space for debate and limits the marketplace or community of ideas.