Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Salk Researcher Provides New View On How The Brain Functions

Date:
October 2, 2003
Source:
Salk Institute
Summary:
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.

La Jolla, Calif.- 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Salk Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Salk Institute. "Salk Researcher Provides New View On How The Brain Functions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002053904.htm>.
Salk Institute. (2003, October 2). Salk Researcher Provides New View On How The Brain Functions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002053904.htm
Salk Institute. "Salk Researcher Provides New View On How The Brain Functions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002053904.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins