Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Salk news: A new view on brain function

26.09.2003


Salk researcher provides new view on how the brain functions



Scientists are developing a new paradigm for how the brain functions. They propose that the brain is not a huge fixed network, as had been previously thought, but a dynamic, changing network that adapts continuously to meet the demands of communication and computational needs.

In the Sept. 26 issue of Science, Salk Institute professor Terrence Sejnowski and University of Cambridge professor Simon Laughlin argue that the human brain has evolved to operate as an enormously efficient "hybrid device," capable of making far more sophisticated computations than the most powerful computers, and the long-distance communication systems in brains have been optimized by evolution for energy efficiency.


"In the past, we were only able to look at brain function by looking at single neurons or local networks of neurons. We were only able to see the trees, so to speak," said Sejnowski. "With breakthroughs in recording techniques including brain imaging, which gives us a global picture of brain activity, and advances in computational neurobiology, we can now take a more global perspective. We’re looking at the entire forest, and we’re asking the question: How has the forest evolved?"

As the brain has evolved over millions of years, according to Sejnowski, it has become amazingly efficient and powerful. He says that nature has "optimized the structure and function of cortical networks with design principles similar to those used in electronic networks." To illustrate the brain’s tremendous capacity, Sejnowski and Laughlin state that the potential bandwidth of all of the neurons in the human cortex is "comparable to the total world backbone capacity of the Internet in 2002."

But they point out that simply comparing the brain to the digital computers of today does not adequately describe the way it functions and makes computations. The brain, according to Sejnowski, has more of the hallmarks of an "energy efficient hybrid device."

"These hybrids offer the ability of analog devices to perform arithmetic functions such as division directly and economically, combined with the ability of digital devices to resist noise," he writes in Science.

"This is an important era in our understanding of the brain," according to Sejnowski. "We are moving toward uncovering some of the fundamental principles related to how neurons in the brain communicate. There is a tremendous amount of information distributed throughout the far-flung regions of the brain. Where does it come from? Where does it go? And how does the brain deal with all of this information?

"These are questions we’ve not been able to address on a comprehensive basis until now. I believe that over the next decade, we will begin to develop some answers."


The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, located in La Jolla, Calif., is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and conditions, and the training of future generations of researchers. The institute was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, M.D., with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.

Robert Bradford | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.salk.edu/

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>