Can we reverse engineer the brain like a computer?

Can we reverse engineer the brain like a computer?

Neuroscientists have a dizzying array of methods to listen in on hundreds or even thousands of neurons in the brain and have even developed tools to manipulate the activity of individual cells. Will this unprecedented access to the brain allow us to finally crack the mystery of how it works? Here we revisit a 2017 paper claiming that modern neuroscience approaches wouldn’t even allow us to understand the simplest “brain” (a microprocessor) and we re-evaluate that critique in the context of some exciting new research.

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The cerebellum – the brain’s built-in thought editor?

The cerebellum – the brain’s built-in thought editor?

The choices we make have a massive impact on almost every aspect of our lives, and poor decision-making is a common feature across many neurologic and psychiatric diseases. So it makes sense that neuroscientists have been fascinated by decision-making for a long time, and have sought to undercover what influences our choices, which parts of the brain contribute to a decision, and how different aspects of a choice (for example, the evidence in favor of one option over another, or the value of each potential outcome) are reflected in neural activity.

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Sleeping with the Cavefishes

Sleeping with the Cavefishes

As a graduate student, I would give my right arm to be a fully functioning human being with little to no sleep. Alas, even Aristotle in 350 BCE observed a seemingly simple truth -- all animals sleep. Much to the frustration of sleep scientists, we still do not fully understand why we need sleep or why there is so much variation between species in sleep behavior. We are, however, beginning to gain an understanding of what may be regulating sleep and how it may have evolved over time, in some cases even making use of unusual model organisms such as Astyanax mexicanus, or the Mexican cavefish.

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