Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neuroscience and big data: How to find simplicity in the brain

25.08.2014

Scientists can now monitor and record the activity of hundreds of neurons concurrently in the brain, and ongoing technology developments promise to increase this number manyfold. However, simply recording the neural activity does not automatically lead to a clearer understanding of how the brain works.

In a new review paper published in Nature Neuroscience, Carnegie Mellon University's Byron M. Yu and Columbia University's John P. Cunningham describe the scientific motivations for studying the activity of many neurons together, along with a class of machine learning algorithms — dimensionality reduction — for interpreting the activity.

In recent years, dimensionality reduction has provided insight into how the brain distinguishes between different odors, makes decisions in the face of uncertainty and is able to think about moving a limb without actually moving.

Yu and Cunningham contend that using dimensionality reduction as a standard analytical method will make it easier to compare activity patterns in healthy and abnormal brains, ultimately leading to improved treatments and interventions for brain injuries and disorders.

"One of the central tenets of neuroscience is that large numbers of neurons work together to give rise to brain function. However, most standard analytical methods are appropriate for analyzing only one or two neurons at a time. To understand how large numbers of neurons interact, advanced statistical methods, such as dimensionality reduction, are needed to interpret these large-scale neural recordings," said Yu, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering at CMU and a faculty member in the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC).

The idea behind dimensionality reduction is to summarize the activity of a large number of neurons using a smaller number of latent (or hidden) variables. Dimensionality reduction methods are particularly useful to uncover inner workings of the brain, such as when we ruminate or solve a mental math problem, where all the action is going on inside the brain and not in the outside world. These latent variables can be used to trace out the path of ones thoughts.

"One of the major goals of science is to explain complex phenomena in simple terms. Traditionally, neuroscientists have sought to find simplicity with individual neurons. However, it is becoming increasingly recognized that neurons show varied features in their activity patterns that are difficult to explain by examining one neuron at a time. Dimensionality reduction provides us with a way to embrace single-neuron heterogeneity and seek simple explanations in terms of how neurons interact with each other," said Cunningham, assistant professor of statistics at Columbia.

Although dimensionality reduction is relatively new to neuroscience compared to existing analytical methods, it has already shown great promise. With Big Data getting ever bigger thanks to the continued development of neural recording technologies and the federal BRAIN Initiative, the use of dimensionality reduction and related methods will likely become increasingly essential.

###

The CNBC, a joint project between Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, is devoted to investigating the neural mechanisms that give rise to human cognitive abilities. The center will celebrate its 20th anniversary of advancing brain, computation and behavior through research and training this fall.

For more information, visit http://www.cnbc.cmu.edu/.

The Grossman Center for the Statistics of Mind, the Simons Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded this research.

For more information, visit http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~byronyu/ and http://stat.columbia.edu/~cunningham/.

Shilo Rea | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Neuroscience activity analytical interact latent neurons patterns reduction

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Visualizing gene expression with MRI
23.12.2016 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Illuminating cancer: Researchers invent a pH threshold sensor to improve cancer surgery
21.12.2016 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>