Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New analytical tool developed by Hebrew University scientists to tackle question of how brain cells work together to react

01.04.2009
An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a new analytical tool to answer the question of how our brain cells record outside stimuli and react to them.

Although much progress has been made in understanding the brain in recent decades, scientists still know relatively little about how these processes function. The two key problems in making progress in this field are that there will never be enough real data in terms of measuring what the brain actually does, and even if there were, there haven’t been enough methods for analyzing such data and using them to answer the question of how neural coding actually takes place.

The analytical method developed by the Hebrew University researchers should be able to provide an indication, for example, of how many neurons encode a given stimulus such as reactions to a face or a movement and how they collaborate to do it.

Current technology allows researchers only a very partial view of brain activity. For example, one cannot record the activity of more than a few hundred nerve cells from the cortex of a behaving animal. Methods like MRI imaging can map larger brain areas, but cannot be used to measure single neurons. A key question then remains of what one can learn from such a partial view.

The Hebrew University researchers, headed by Dr. Amir Globerson of the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, have formulated the novel principle of Minimum Mutual Information (MinMI) to tackle the issue. An article detailing their findings has been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US.

In the article, the researchers provide analyses of both real and simulated data. Their method permits quantification of information in the brain about behavior, given sets of very partial measurements. The key insight to obtaining such results is to consider, via computer simulations, a set of "hypothetical brains" that could have generated the combination of the observed measurements, and then drawing conclusions that are valid for all the brains in this set. Although this seems like a daunting computational task, the researchers have shown that it can be achieved in some cases.

The real data was recorded from monkeys in the laboratory of Prof. Eilon Vaadia, who is the Jack H. Skirball Professor of Brain Research at the Hebrew University- Hadassah Medical School and the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at the Hebrew University.

The research was carried out as part of Dr. Globerson’s Ph.D. thesis at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation, and in collaboration with Dr. Eran Stark (who at the time was a graduate student at the Hebrew University- Hadassah Medical School) and with Dr. Globerson’s Ph.D. advisors, Prof. Naftali Tishby and Prof. Vaadia. Prof. Tishby is a professor at the the School of Computer Science and Engineering and also a member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at the Hebrew University.

As experimental tools develop, the researchers are looking forward to obtaining access to actual brain measurements on a larger scale. Methods such as the ones they have developed will be applied to help analyze such data and gain even more far-reaching conclusions as to how brain cells process information.

Jerry Barach | Hebrew University
Further information:
http://www.huji.ac.il

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify how bacterium survives in oxygen-poor environments
22.11.2017 | Columbia University

nachricht Researchers discover specific tumor environment that triggers cells to metastasize
22.11.2017 | University of California - San Diego

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers at IST Austria define function of an enigmatic synaptic protein

22.11.2017 | Life Sciences

Fine felted nanotubes: CAU research team develops new composite material made of carbon nanotubes

22.11.2017 | Materials Sciences

Women and lung cancer – the role of sex hormones

22.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>