A type of cell plentiful in the brain, long considered mainly the stuff that holds the brain together and oft-overlooked by scientists more interested in flashier cells known as neurons, wields more power in the brain than has been realized, according to new research published March 29 in Science Signaling.
The patient’s task was to control the activity of single neurons. There are several 100 billion neurons in the human brain. How can the patient begin to know which neuron needs to increase in activity to complete the task? The researchers left this part up to the patients, letting them explore strategies until amazingly, they succeeded.
UCLA psychologists have used brain-imaging techniques to study what happens to the human brain when it slips into unconsciousness. Their research, published Oct. 17 in the online journal PLOS Computational Biology, is an initial step toward developing a scientific definition of consciousness.
The psychologists analyzed the “network properties” of the subjects’ brains using a branch of mathematics known as graph theory, which is often used to study air-traffic patterns, information on the Internet and social groups, among other topics.
“It turns out that when we lose consciousness, the communication among areas of the brain becomes extremely inefficient, as if suddenly each area of the brain became very distant from every other, making it difficult for information to travel from one place to another,” Monti said.
The finding shows that consciousness does not “live” in a particular place in our brain but rather “arises from the mode in which billions of neurons communicate with one another,” he said.
Why are humans moral? Patricia Churchland, author of "Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality," is here to explain how humans evolved to be moral beings. How did we go from the attachment and bonding between parent and child to the sophisticated moral landscape we have today? Churchland believes a big part of the answer is in the evolution of the mammalian brain.
Humankind’s sharpest minds have figured out some of nature’s deepest secrets. Why the sun shines. How humans evolved from single-celled life. Why an apple falls to the ground. Humans have conceived and built giant telescopes that glimpse galaxies billions of light-years away and microscopes that illuminate the contours of a single atom. Yet the peculiar quality that enabled such flashes of scientific insight and grand achievements remains a mystery: consciousness.
Inspiration and interpretation are inevitable. As metaphor is basic to what we do, so emerging results in neuroscience will be taken well beyond the intentions and even meanings of their authors. Much caution and critique will be needed. Yet at the same time, I want to preserve a space for this other mantle, from science to art and humanism. To creation and design and expression.
A revolution based on neuroscience? No. A recognition of our bodies and experiences and senses? Yes. And thus much closer to metaphors that inspire us every day. Like HOME or WARMTH. And maybe even a tree or two.
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