It’s a Saturday and you’re on vacation, looking out over the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean from the windy cliffs of Big Sur. You breathe in cool, fresh salty air. A thunderous pummel of great waves stirs neural networks in your brain and suddenly you find yourself wondering what lies submerged beneath the foaming sea. Seals playing among beds of kelp? Sharks prowling for a kill? Creatures yet to be discovered?

Exploring beyond what meets the eye has fueled human inventiveness for thousands of years. In recent decades, technology has provided us with unique tools that inspire questions our forefathers could not even begin to imagine.

Consider the brain. A mere 200 years ago, we did not know that it was made of neurons. Without this knowledge, it would be impossible to realize that these cells connect through synapses to form networks and communicate by electrical and chemical signals. The neural doctrine, as it’s called, leads to avalanches of discoveries. One such is plasticity, a neuron’s ability to modify its connections over time. A few decades ago it was widely thought plasticity was exhibited by developing brains and not in adults. But advances in neurotech that allow us to see beyond the surface and venture deep within a living brain disrupted this conception. Researchers now realize that adult brains are highly adaptive to experience and regularly grow new synapses over time…

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