Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Study Examines the Brain’s Wiring

The brain has been mapped to the smallest fold for at least a century, but still no one knows how all the parts talk to each other.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences answers that question for a small area of the rat brain and in so doing takes a big step toward revealing the brain’s wiring.

The network of brain connections was thought too complex to describe, but molecular biology and computing methods have improved to the point that the National Institutes of Health have announced a $30 million plan to map the human “connectome.”

The study shows the power of a new method for tracing brain circuits.

USC College neuroscientists Richard H. Thompson and Larry W. Swanson used the method to trace circuits running through a “hedonic hot spot” related to food enjoyment.

The circuits showed up as patterns of circular loops, suggesting that at least in this part of the rat brain, the wiring diagram looks like a distributed network.

Neuroscientists are split between a traditional view that the brain is organized as a hierarchy, with most regions feeding into the “higher” centers of conscious thought, and a more recent model of the brain as a flat network similar to the Internet.

“We started in one place and looked at the connections. It led into a very complicated series of loops and circuits. It’s not an organizational chart. There’s no top and bottom to it,” said Swanson, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Milo Don and Lucille Appleman Professor of Biological Sciences at USC College.

The circuit tracing method allows the study of incoming and outgoing signals from any two brain centers. It was invented and refined by Thompson over eight years. Thompson is a research assistant professor of biological sciences at the College.

Most other tracing studies at present focus only on one signal, in one direction, at one location.

“[We] can look at up to four links in a circuit, in the same animal at the same time. That was our technical innovation,” Swanson said.

The Internet model would explain the brain’s ability to overcome much local damage, Swanson said.

“You can knock out almost any single part of the Internet and the rest of it works.”

Likewise, Swanson said, “There are usually alternate pathways through the nervous system. It’s very hard to say that any one part is absolutely essential.”

Swanson first argued for the distributed model of the brain in his acclaimed book Brain Architecture: Understanding the Basic Plan (Oxford University Press, 2003).

The PNAS study appears to support his view.

“There is an alternate model. It’s not proven, but let’s rethink the traditional way of regarding how the brain works,” he said.

“The part of the brain you think with, the cortex, is very important, but it’s certainly not the only part of the nervous system that determines our behavior.”

The research described in the PNAS study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the National Institutes of Health.

Carl Marziali | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>