It’s a bit of a heavy post, but I’ve been going back through my drafts folder and I found this breaking news item from a couple of years ago, so I thought I’d rescue it from limbo…
Long story short, scientists have essentially produced a circuit diagram of a monkey’s brain, paving the way for understanding how information travels and is processed across our brains.
“The Mandala of the Mind”: The long-distance network of the Macaque monkey brain, spanning the cortex, thalamus, and basal ganglia, showing 6,602 long-distance connections between 383 brain regions.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a landmark paper (in 2010; right up to the minute I am) entitled “Network architecture of the long-distance pathways in the macaque brain” by Dharmendra S. Modha (IBM Almaden) and Raghavendra Singh (IBM Research-India) . The paper has major implications for reverse-engineering the brain and developing a network of cognitive-computing chips.
In the study, the scientists focused on the long-distance network of 383 brain regions and 6,602 long-distance brain connections that travel through the brain’s white matter, rather like motorways connecting the brain’s far-flung regions.
The information for this study came from a database called Collation of Connectivity data on the Macaque brain (CoCoMac), which compiles anatomical tracing data from over 400 scientific reports from neuroanatomists published over the last half-century.
The scientists used this data to rank brain regions (similar to how search engines rank web pages), and develop the figure above which shows how strongly regions of the brain are networked together.
This analysis has opened the door to using large-scale network-theoretic analysis – which has already helped to make sense of the Internet, metabolic networks, protein interaction networks and various social networks – both to understand the workings of the brain, and to design new generation of cognitive computing chips.
What this all means, in simple terms, is that the lines between computer analysis and neuroscience are becoming more and more blurred. Our understanding of how the brain works will help us design better computers, while our understanding of computers and the networks that connect them will hopefully help us design new neurolgical medicines, surgeries and other interventions. Yup, computers that think like people… SKYNET IS COMING.
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