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The Atlanta Science Tavern Message Board The Atlanta Science Tavern Discussion Forum › An Artificial Hippocampus and Neuronal Communicatiion via Electric Fields

An Artificial Hippocampus and Neuronal Communicatiion via Electric Fields

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Ernie C.
user 7596470
Atlanta, GA
Post #: 26
I learned of two science news items I thought I would share. Both are neuroscience-related, and are about potentially revolutionary research.

The first item is about recent evidence that neurons synchronize their firings through electric fields interactions, independent of synapses. The relevant article appeared in Nature Neuroscience, and can be found here:

http://www.nature.com...­

Also see:

http://www.kurzweilai...­

It has long been known that neurons produce electric fields like this, and that in certain pathological situations (e.g. during a seizure) these fields can feed back and affect neural activity; what is new here is the evidence that much weaker fields regularly affect neural activity. What this suggests -- to me at least -- is that computational models that only account for neuro-chemical interactions are not rich enough to account for all that the brain does. It does not, however, rule out ``neuro-computationalism'', as the interactions of these fields with neurons could well be easy to model computationally.


In support of the neuro-computational hypothesis (the functioning of the brain can be explained pretty well by computational models that run on digital computers; the mind is ``nothing but'', or is ``equivalent to'', the running of such a program), a team of scientists from Wake Forest University and University of Southern California have recently built a neural prosthesis that duplicates some of the functions of the hippocampus (the portion of the brain responsible for long-term memories), and successfully tested it in rats:

http://www.nytimes.co...­

I had actually heard about ``artificial hippocampus'' research many years ago, and had assumed that because not much had been reported on it recently, it must have hit a snag, and possibly a fundamental misunderstanding about how the brain works. I guess I was wrong: the researchers in this area were just waiting until they had something to report.
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