In July I participated in the German science web video contest “Fast Forward Science”. In this video I explain the concept of the “brain changes” that people keep talking about in the headlines: brain states, and neuroplasticity.
The video is in German, but you can switch on English subtitles.
P.S. Unfortunately the video did not make it into the second round 🙁
So far so good. It appears that basically there is little discussion about whether neurons compute things. However, a new conversation between me and @mnxmnkmnd came up as I realized that for him it appears to be close to irrelevant whether you call a neuron a computer or not and you don’t learn more from emulating the computational function of a neuron than from simulating the thing the same way you would from simulating fluid dynamics or a pendulum.
So, here is my new attempt to explain, why I think it is important and meaningful to think of neurons as computing agents rather than simply physical phenomena.
Just recently the last article from my PhD thesis was published by Frontiers in Integrative Neurophysiology! I want to explain to you over the next few posts what my thesis was all about – several posts because I don’t like long posts :P. So, today I start with this brief introduction:
My collaborators and I want to know how small animals can see things during fast flight. Well, it is actually not only about just seeing things. Small animals, especially fast moving ones must be able to quickly realize where all the things around them are and which of those they might collide with if they don’t maneuver around them in time. Imagine you are a little zebra finch, just 12 grams body weight, and you are sitting at the water pond home in Australia minding your own business, taking a sip, washing the dust off your feathers or hopping around looking for grains to eat. And then all of the sudden a warning call! One of your peers has seen a bird of prey approaching! What follows is total chaos – well at least from the perspective of an outsider – everybody, maybe hundreds of fellow zebra finches, rush from the water pond into the bushes and tree tops near by. Flying buddies everywhere, leafs, twigs, branches and you have to be quick! And this is not a made up story, just watch this video!
The question is
Why do zebra finches not crash into each other and into branches?
I am planning a blog post on what the Ultimate Goal of Neuroscience is. I would like to make a survey first, to hear from all you neuroscientists out there, what you think, is the big goal of neuroscience. I will present the results in this blog and write a commentary on it.
The question is: “Given unlimited ressources (infinite time – yes immortatlity, people, money, technology, everything), what would be the ultimate goal or ultimate application that would crown your neuroscientific work?”
Please write your brief(!) answer in the comments below, or twitter (don’t forget to adress me: @DennisEckmeier)! Please be creative! ‘Duh, everything.’ does not count! And spread the word!