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Brain Causality, Emergence And How To Predict The Future

Neuroscientists study the brain at multiple scales, ranging from the detailed structure of ion channels (those proteins in the neuronal membrane that let ions in and out of the cell) all the way to inferring brain function by examining behavior. There is also a similarly wide range of temporal domains from the sub-millisecond processes that govern the movement of ions up to the consequences of aging over the years.

We all hope that one day we will be able to navigate smoothly across all of these scales, in the same way that we can transition from subatomic particles all the way to...

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You Want Proof?

An image is worth a thousand words. And an equation is worth a thousand images. Yet, the value of pictorial proofs is astounding. I was reminded of this fact upon reading a delightful monograph by a brilliant mind, Sanjoy Mahajan, “Street-Fighting Mathematics”.

Let us examine one example (this comes from one of the exercises in Sanjoy’s book). Consider the following sum:...

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Not So Free Associations

Our brains are amazingly good at associating events. Pictures, sounds, smells, actions, words are all connected together to form the basic fabric of our internal representations. Miyashita’s research group in Japan has performed a series of elegant experiments demonstrating that individual neurons in monkeys’ brains have a remarkable power to form such associations [1-3].

In these experiments, monkeys are presented with a series of abstract patterns such as the ones illustrated in the figure below. Monkeys are trained over the...

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Holistic Representations

Vision informs our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Visual input from the retina travels through a cascade of processes in the neocortex to the highest echelons of the brain. An important step to explaining these higher brain functions is to first understand and quantitatively characterize the neuronal circuits behind the transformation of the pixel-like visual input to the complex behaviorally relevant format in higher brain centers.

Recently, Rutishauser and colleagues courageously attacked this question by recording the activity of individual neurons in the human brain while...

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Individuals With Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory Have False Memories Too

The ability to remember events from the past constitutes one of the quintessential components of who we are. Take a moment to consider you and your life without those revered moments. Forming memories is likely to have played a central role during evolution by conferring species the power to learn from mistakes and to recall useful information such as directions to food sources.

Individuals differ significantly in their abilities to recall information. In particular, recent studies have identified elite players in the particular domain of autobiographical memories. How superior are...

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I will take a human brain with that please

As we learn more and more about the intricate world of neurons, their connections and functions, many of us become tempted to simulate neuronal circuits in computational programs. The science and art of building neuronal circuits in silico goes by several names including computational neuroscience, neural networks, artificial intelligence and many others.

An interesting and intriguing version of these efforts was published recently in the journal Science (“A large-scale model of the functioning brain. Science 30:...

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Mind the quantum?

One of the greatest adventures of all times for Science involves trying to understand how our brains work. Our capacity to perceive the beautiful colors of the rainbow, to build machines to take us to the moon, to prove mathematical theorems and to fall in love depends on the intricate circuitry of many neurons in our brains. Francis Crick pungently wrote: "You are nothing but a pack of neurons". 

I have recently read a great book entitled "Physics in Mind" by Werner Loewenstein, W. (2012). The book takes us on a...

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