Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human Brain Region Functions Like Digital Computer

Date:
October 6, 2006
Source:
University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary:
A region of the human brain that scientists believe is critical to human intellectual abilities surprisingly functions much like a digital computer, understand the functioning of human intelligence.

A region of the human brain that scientists believe is critical to human intellectual abilities surprisingly functions much like a digital computer, according to psychology Professor Randall O'Reilly of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Related Articles


The finding could help researchers better understand the functioning of human intelligence.

In a review of biological computer models of the brain appearing in the Oct. 6 edition of the journal Science, O'Reilly contends that the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia operate much like a digital computer system.

"Many researchers who create these models shun the computer metaphor," O'Reilly said. "My work comes out of a tradition that says people's brains are nothing like computers, and now all of a sudden as we look at them, in fact, in a certain respect they are like computers."

Digital computers operate by turning electrical signals into binary "on and off states" and flexibly manipulating these states by using switches. O'Reilly found the same operating principles in the brain.

"The neurons in the prefrontal cortex are binary -- they have two states, either active or inactive -- and the basal ganglia is essentially a big switch that allows you to dynamically turn on and off different parts of the prefrontal cortex," O'Reilly said.

The brain as a whole operates more like a social network than a digital computer, with neurons communicating to allow learning and the creation of memory, according to O'Reilly.

However, the computer-like features of the prefrontal cortex broaden the social networks, helping the brain become more flexible in processing novel and symbolic information, O'Reilly said.

The prefrontal cortex is the executive center of the brain and supports "higher level" cognition, including decision making and problem solving. Researchers believe that the prefrontal cortex is critical to human intellectual ability, and better understanding it is crucial to understanding more about human intelligence, according to O'Reilly.

If researchers can gain a better understanding of this synthesis of the prefrontal cortex and the brain as a whole, they could be on the way to a better understanding of human intelligence.

The best way to do this, O'Reilly says, is by developing more biologically based computer models of the brain to help researchers understand how the biology of the brain works, and eventually provide insights into what makes us so smart.

"Modeling the brain is not like a lot of science where you can go from one step to the next in a chain of reasoning, because you need to take into account so many levels of analysis," O'Reilly said.

O'Reilly likens the process to weather modeling.

"Most weather models don't exactly represent what happens in a low-pressure system, but they do capture some global features," he said. "If you capture the essence of it, it tells you a lot about how the system works. It's the same premise when it comes to modeling of the brain."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Colorado at Boulder. "Human Brain Region Functions Like Digital Computer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061005222628.htm>.
University of Colorado at Boulder. (2006, October 6). Human Brain Region Functions Like Digital Computer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061005222628.htm
University of Colorado at Boulder. "Human Brain Region Functions Like Digital Computer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061005222628.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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