The brain, with 1012 neurons interacting through 1015 synapses, is surely the most complex structure in the entire Universe. Neuroscience is systematically addressing the study of brain functions at different levels of complexity, from cells to microcircuits to the entire brain. Understanding the brain is one of humanity’s great challenges and has major societal implications at the biomedical and technological level, to the extent that large-scale projects have recently been launched in Europe (Human Brain Project) and America (Active Brain Project, Connectome Project). The growing international interest in these topics resulted in the awarding of the 2014 Nobel Prize to neuroscience for the study of the relationships between neurons, microcircuits, and behaviour. It is essential to transfer molecular and cellular knowledge into more complex structures such as microcircuits and the whole brain (and vice versa) within a coherent and progressively evolving modelling framework.
Therefore, in its different articulations, the school will be able to address different complementary aspects of Neuroscience, at a specific level and with a multidisciplinary approach, using experimental, theoretical, and modelling approaches. The modelling approach will be of particular relevance. The realisation of the impossibility of gathering extensive information on all critical aspects of nerve function in a realistic timeframe and the lack of a shared theoretical framework is in fact leading to the articulated development of bottom-up and top-down models that can drive targeted experiments. This approach, widely used in various fields of physics, is now fully developed in the Human Brain Project and requires strong interdisciplinarity and cross-fertilisation of knowledge.
The school is named after Camillo Golgi, the Italian scientist who first discovered the cell structure of the nervous system and was awarded the Nobel Prize for this in 1906. His discovery represents the starting point for the systematic study of the complex relationships existing between cellular elements (neurons) and the microcircuits they help form. In particular, Golgi was the first to realise that the function of neurons becomes meaningful only if inserted within that of the microcircuit, laying the foundations for the most advanced modern experimental and modelling studies.
The school proposed here is designed to keep up with the times and to be able to adapt to the continuous demands of science by renewing itself for specific themes in the subsequent courses proposed. The school will address the problem of generating a framework for understanding the functions of the brain, will be multidisciplinary in nature, will address the study of the brain as a multi-scale system, and will employ physical models of neural functions. In this way, the school will be able to complement existing more specialised schools in particular areas, such as neurophysiology and artificial neural networks.