Current Research Strategy
The present day is witnessing an ever-increasing flood of new data in neuroscience the sheer volume of which is liable to cause chaos. Many vital clues in science come from the juxtaposition of two previously unrelated items that may be located in different subdisciplines, or even disciplines. These may be missed if research is confined to only one topic as is commonly the case. Exosomes are a case in point. It was 19 years after the first reports of their key role in intercellular communication appeared in the cell biology literature (Johnstone 1987) that the first two papers on their role in the nervous system were published (Fauré et al 2006; Smalheiser 2007). Between 2007 and 2012 a few more were published, but since 2012 more than 160. Today this field is exploding.
Telocytes provide another example. Discovered by Ramon y Cajal a century ago, they remained in comparative oblivion until a decade ago, when study was resumed by a group at the National Institute of Pathology in Budapest led by its Director Laurentiu Popescu. The study of the relation of these remarkable cells to the nervous system is taking off but is still in its infancy.
So I have concentrated, together with my colleagues Lawrence Edelstein (far left in the photograph) and Vilayanur Ramachandran (third from right: I am second from right), in a widely based multidisciplinary program that has already resulted in promising new developments in a wide variety of subfields in neuroscience.
Rama set the ball rolling on this in an e-mail I received in August 2011. It said “John—you should really have a look at the claustrum—you know Francis’s idea that it plays a key role in consciousness. The fact that it is connected with every other part of the brain must mean something. Get together with Larry on this.” From this one thing led to another.