Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neurons: Faster than thought and able to multiply

Date:
September 10, 2010
Source:
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Summary:
Using computer simulations of brain-like networks, researchers from Germany and Japan have discovered why nerve cells transmit information through small electrical pulses. The process not only allows the brain to process information much faster than previously thought, but also single neurons are already able to multiply, opening the door to more complex forms of computing.

Researchers have discovered what exactly happens right before a nerve cell emits a pulse: computer simulations reveal that the process is similar to a Japanese garden 'shishi odoshi' -- a reed of bamboo, open on one end, which tilts when a certain amount of rainwater has accumulated inside.
Credit: Image courtesy of Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience

Using computer simulations of brain-like networks, researchers from Germany and Japan have discovered why nerve cells transmit information through small electrical pulses. The process not only allows the brain to process information much faster than previously thought, but also single neurons are already able to multiply, opening the door to more complex forms of computing.

When nerve cells communicate with each other, they do so through electrical pulses -- so-called action potentials. For decades, the accepted idea was that they simply sum up the tiny potentials generated by the incoming pulses and emit an action potential themselves when a threshold is reached. For the first time, Moritz Helias and Markus Diesmann from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (Japan) and Moritz Deger and Stefan Rotter from the Bernstein Center Freiburg (Germany) now explain what exactly happens right before a nerve cell emits a pulse.

The research appears online in PLoS Computational Biology, published by the Public Library of Science.

The scientists made their discovery through simulations on high performance computers, but found the perfect image for their research subject in the tranquility of Japanese gardens: the 'shishi odoshi', a reed of bamboo, open on one end, which tilts when a certain amount of rainwater has accumulated inside. Just as one tiny raindrop ultimately causes the device to tilt and spill the water, one small electric pulse will cause a neuron to produce an impulse of its own.

Although the neurons in the brain would correspond to a huge forest of bamboo, and the activity sent between them to a thunderstorm of raindrops, Helias and colleagues found a precise mathematical theory that needs to consider the detailed course of events only at the time when a neuron is about to release an action potential.

Not only does this theory explain why nerve cells process information much faster than previously thought. It also became clear that neurons do more than just add up pulses: In the decisive moments, they actually multiply. The availability of this mathematical operation, write the scientists, finally explains how the brain is able to execute complex computations. These insights in the basic processes of the brain will in turn inspire more powerful processor architectures in the future.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Moritz Helias, Moritz Deger, Stefan Rotter, Markus Diesmann, Karl J. Friston. Instantaneous Non-Linear Processing by Pulse-Coupled Threshold Units. PLoS Computational Biology, 2010; 6 (9): e1000929 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000929

Cite This Page:

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Neurons: Faster than thought and able to multiply." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100910093215.htm>.
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. (2010, September 10). Neurons: Faster than thought and able to multiply. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100910093215.htm
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Neurons: Faster than thought and able to multiply." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100910093215.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) — More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) — Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) — Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) — Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
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