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Will It Ever Be Possible to Understand the Human Brain?

Despite technical breakthroughs like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, scientists still have no reliable model of how the brain actually works

Brian Bergstein
Published in
15 min readAug 21, 2019

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TThe 19th-century villa, glass-walled conservatory, and gardens of the Carlsberg Academy in Copenhagen is hallowed ground in the history of science. It was originally the home of J.C. Jacobsen, founder of the Carlsberg brewery. Jacobsen decreed that the property should become “an honorary residence for a man or woman engaged in science, literature, or art.”

From 1932 to 1962, that resident was Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning Danish physicist who worked out how quantum mechanics determines the structure of atoms. This is where Bohr strolled and conferred with luminaries of science like Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, discussing the essential physics problems that provided the groundwork for the nuclear age.

Today, the Carlsberg Foundation maintains the home and gardens for scientific conferences and symposiums. And for three days this past May, over a dozen scientists from around the world gathered there to share pieces to a puzzle as fundamental as the ones that occupied Bohr: how the brain works.

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Brian Bergstein
OneZero

Journalist in Boston. Editor at large, NEO.LIFE. I’ve been executive editor of MIT Technology Review and tech editor at the AP. More info: brianbergstein.com