To crack the code of the brain,… two fundamental problems must be solved.
The first is: “How does the machine work, starting with its building blocks, cell types, going through their physiology and anatomy,” he said. That means knowing all the different types of neurons in the mouse visual cortex and their function — information that science doesn’t have yet.
It also means knowing what code is used to pass on information. When a mouse sees a picture, how is that picture encoded and passed from neuron to neuron? That is called neural computation.
“The other highly related problem is: How does that neural computation create behavior?” he said. How does the mouse brain decide on action based on that input? Continue reading
Anyone with a basic grasp of biology knows that all animals have immune systems that battle pathogens—be they viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi—on the cellular level. And it’s also fairly well understood that animals sometimes exhibit outward behaviors that serve to ward off disease. ….humans likewise manifest such instinctual behaviors to avoid infection and illness. Some of these habits very much parallel those seen in other creatures..everyday life is full of small defensive moves against contamination, some motivated by feelings, like disgust, that arise without conscious reflection.
Our moment-to-moment psychological reactions to the threat of illness, they suggest, have a huge cumulative effect on culture…these deep interactions between local pathogens and human social evolution may explain many of the basic differences we observe between cultures. How does your culture behave toward strangers? What kind of government do you live under? Who are your sexual partners? What values do you share? All of these questions may mask a more fundamental one: What germs are you warding off? Continue reading