Understanding complex systems such as the brain of mammals: Dr. Arvind Kumar and colleagues from the Bernstein Center and the Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools at the University of Freiburg present a new view on brain function.
For a network of five elements, the combinations to be tested to ascertain each unit’s effect are already 52 (shown as orbiting symbols). Hence, this traditional way to investigate brain function is useless in most cases (Image: Grah/BrainLinks-BrainTools, symbols: Mate2code, Creative Commons).
Much of today’s brain research follows an approach that has been in use for decades: An area of the brain is either silenced of augmented in its activity, and the resulting effects in other parts of the brain – or in the whole organ – are measured. While this approach is very successful in understanding how the brain processes input from our senses, a team of scientists from Freiburg argues that it is too simple when trying to understand other brain regions. The team presents their findings in the current issue of the journal “Trends in Neuroscience”.
“The traditional approach reduces the brain’s enormous complexity by defining relatively arbitrary subunits”, Kumar and his colleagues explain. For this abstraction to work, information must flow in one direction only. But this is not what happens in the brain, which is a complex network of smaller sub-networks that allows feedback to preceding units. Even for a network of ten units, unraveling each unit’s function would require more than 100,000 individual experimental setups – an impossible task.
“Perhaps, the main question in understanding the brain is not so much how a particular area affects the activity of others, but rather how exactly brain activity can be changed from one state to another”, Kumar states. For this purpose, the neuroscientists introduced a new quality of nerve cells: their embeddedness. This is a measure for the role that a neuron plays within a network. It combines data about where a nerve cell receives information from, where it connects to, and how much it contributes to the whole network. The researchers combine this idea with the insight that already a limited number of elements within a network can control its overall behavior. Concentrating on these ‘driving neurons’ promises that even manipulating only a small number of nerve cells will provide new insight about the dynamics within the whole network. The team from Freiburg hopes that this will open new perspectives on understanding the brain, its function – and dysfunction.Original publication:
Dr. Gunnar Grah | University of Freiburg
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine