Blue Brain team discovers a multi-dimensional universe in brain networksJune 12, 2017
For most people, it is a stretch of the imagination to understand the world in four dimensions but a new study has discovered structures in the brain with up to eleven dimensions - ground-breaking work that is beginning to reveal the brain's deepest architectural secrets.
Using algebraic topology in a way that it has never been used before in neuroscience, a team from the Blue Brain Project has uncovered a universe of multi-dimensional geometrical structures and spaces within the networks of the brain.
The research, published today in Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, shows that these structures arise when a group of neurons forms a clique: each neuron connects to every other neuron in the group in a very specific way that generates a precise geometric object. The more neurons there are in a clique, the higher the dimension of the geometric object.
"We found a world that we had never imagined," says neuroscientist Henry Markram, director of Blue Brain Project and professor at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, "there are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions."
Markram suggests this may explain why it has been so hard to understand the brain. "The mathematics usually applied to study networks cannot detect the high-dimensional structures and spaces that we now see clearly."
If 4D worlds stretch our imagination, worlds with 5, 6 or more dimensions are too complex for most of us to comprehend. This is where algebraic topology comes in: a branch of mathematics that can describe systems with any number of dimensions. The mathematicians who brought algebraic topology to the study of brain networks in the Blue Brain Project were Kathryn Hess from EPFL and Ran Levi from Aberdeen University.
"Algebraic topology is like a telescope and microscope at the same time. It can zoom into networks to find hidden structures - the trees in the forest - and see the empty spaces - the clearings - all at the same time," explains Hess.
In 2015, Blue Brain published the first digital copy of a piece of the neocortex - the most evolved part of the brain and the seat of our sensations, actions, and consciousness. In this latest research, using algebraic topology, multiple tests were performed on the virtual brain tissue to show that the multi-dimensional brain structures discovered could never be produced by chance. Experiments were then performed on real brain tissue in the Blue Brain's wet lab in Lausanne confirming that the earlier discoveries in the virtual tissue are biologically relevant and also suggesting that the brain constantly rewires during development to build a network with as many high-dimensional structures as possible.
When the researchers presented the virtual brain tissue with a stimulus, cliques of progressively higher dimensions assembled momentarily to enclose high-dimensional holes, that the researchers refer to as cavities. "The appearance of high-dimensional cavities when the brain is processing information means that the neurons in the network react to stimuli in an extremely organized manner," says Levi. "It is as if the brain reacts to a stimulus by building then razing a tower of multi-dimensional blocks, starting with rods (1D), then planks (2D), then cubes (3D), and then more complex geometries with 4D, 5D, etc. The progression of activity through the brain resembles a multi-dimensional sandcastle that materializes out of the sand and then disintegrates."
The big question these researchers are asking now is whether the intricacy of tasks we can perform depends on the complexity of the multi-dimensional "sandcastles" the brain can build. Neuroscience has also been struggling to find where the brain stores its memories. "They may be 'hiding' in high-dimensional cavities," Markram speculates.
About Blue Brain
The aim of the Blue Brain Project, a Swiss brain initiative founded and directed by Professor Henry Markram, is to build accurate, biologically detailed digital reconstructions and simulations of the rodent brain, and ultimately, the human brain. The supercomputer-based reconstructions and simulations built by Blue Brain offer a radically new approach for understanding the multilevel structure and function of the brain. http://bluebrain.epfl.ch
Frontiers is a leading community-driven open-access publisher. By taking publishing entirely online, we drive innovation with new technologies to make peer review more efficient and transparent. We provide impact metrics for articles and researchers, and merge open access publishing with a research network platform - Loop - to catalyse research dissemination, and popularize research to the public, including children. Our goal is to increase the reach and impact of research articles and their authors. Frontiers has received the ALPSP Gold Award for Innovation in Publishing in 2014. http://www.frontiersin.org.
Related Neurons Articles:
One of the big challenges in the Neuroscience field is to understand how connections and communications trigger our behavior.
In a new study published in Neuron, investigators report on a transcription factor that they have found that can help certain neurons regenerate, while simultaneously killing others.
When many individual neurons collect data, how do they reach a unanimous decision?
Individual neurons can learn not only single responses to a particular signal, but also a series of reactions at precisely timed intervals.
Putting a turbo engine into an old car gives it an entirely new life -- suddenly it can go further, faster.
Turning the theory of how the human brain perceives time on its head, a novel analysis in mice reveals that dopamine neuron activity plays a key role in judgment of time, slowing down the internal clock.
Researchers have identified a large population of previously unrecognized young neurons that migrate in the human brain during the first few months of life, contributing to the expansion of the frontal lobe, a region important for social behavior and executive function.
For decades, scientists have struggled to develop a comprehensive census of cell types in the brain.
In the brain, patterns of neural activity are perfectly balanced.
University of Alberta researchers have developed a method of connecting neurons, using ultrashort laser pulses -- a breakthrough technique that opens the door to new medical research and treatment opportunities.
Related Neurons Reading:
The Neuron: Cell and Molecular Biology
by Irwin B. Levitan (Author), Leonard K. Kaczmarek (Author)
The Fourth Edition of The Neuron provides a comprehensive first course in the cell and molecular biology of nerve cells. The book begins with properties of the many newly discovered ion channels that have emerged through mapping of the genome. These channels shape the way a single neuron generates varied patterns of electrical activity. Covered next are the molecular mechanisms that convert electrical activity into the secretion of neurotransmitter hormones at synaptic junctions between neurons. The following section examines the biochemical pathways that are linked to the action of... View Details
The Neuron: Cell and Molecular Biology
by Irwin B. Levitan (Author), Leonard K. Kaczmarek (Author)
The third edition of The Neuron provides a comprehensive first course in the cell and molecular biology of nerve cells. The first part of the book covers the properties of the many ion channels that shape the way a single neuron generates varied patterns of electrical activity, as well as the molecular mechanisms that convert electrical activity into the secretion of neurotransmitter hormones at synaptic junctions between neurons. The second part covers the biochemical pathways that are linked to the action of neurotransmitters and can alter the cellular properties of neurons or... View Details
From Neurons to Neighborhoods : The Science of Early Childhood Development
by Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Author), Youth, and Families Board on Children (Author), National Research Council (Author), Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Author), Jack P. Shonkoff (Editor), Deborah A. Phillips (Editor)
How we raise young children is one of today's most highly personalized and sharply politicized issues, in part because each of us can claim some level of "expertise." The debate has intensified as discoveries about our development-in the womb and in the first months and years-have reached the popular media.
How can we use our burgeoning knowledge to assure the well-being of all young children, for their own sake as well as for the sake of our nation? Drawing from new findings, this book presents important conclusions about nature-versus-nurture, the impact of being born into a... View Details
From Neuron to Brain
by John G. Nicholls (Author), A. Robert Martin (Author), David A. Brown (Author), Mathew E. Diamond (Author), David A. Weisblat (Author), Paul A. Fuchs (Author)
From Neuron to Brain, Fifth Edition, provides a readable, up-to-date book for use in undergraduate, graduate, and medical school courses in neuroscience. As in previous editions, the emphasis is on experiments made by electrical recordings, molecular and cellular biological techniques, and behavioral studies on the nervous system, from simple reflexes to cognitive functions. Lines of research are followed from the inception of an idea to new findings being made in laboratories and clinics today.
A major change is that this edition begins with the anatomy and physiology of the... View Details
The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership: What Top Military Commanders, Neuroscientists, and the Ancient Greeks Teach Us about Inspiring Teams
by W. Craig Reed (Author), Gordon R. England (Foreword)
Leadership techniques backed by the world's most effective teams
The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership offers a diverse collection of wisdom and practical knowledge to help you build and lead your most effective team yet. Written by a former U.S. Navy diver, this book draws from the author's experiences and beyond to reveal key truths about the nature of teamwork, and expose the core of effective team leadership. You'll go back to ancient Greece to discover the nine personality types and the seven types of love that form the foundation of human interaction, and learn how... View Details
From Photon to Neuron: Light, Imaging, Vision
by Philip Nelson (Author)
A richly illustrated undergraduate textbook on the physics and biology of light
Students in the physical and life sciences, and in engineering, need to know about the physics and biology of light. Recently, it has become increasingly clear that an understanding of the quantum nature of light is essential, both for the latest imaging technologies and to advance our knowledge of fundamental life processes, such as photosynthesis and human vision. From Photon to Neuron provides undergraduates with an accessible introduction to the physics of light and offers a unified view... View Details
The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition
by Gregory Hickok (Author)
An essential reconsideration of one of the most far-reaching theories in modern neuroscience and psychology.In 1992, a group of neuroscientists from Parma, Italy, reported a new class of brain cells discovered in the motor cortex of the macaque monkey. These cells, later dubbed mirror neurons, responded equally well during the monkey’s own motor actions, such as grabbing an object, and while the monkey watched someone else perform similar motor actions. Researchers speculated that the neurons allowed the monkey to understand others by simulating their actions in its... View Details
Single Neuron Studies of the Human Brain: Probing Cognition (MIT Press)
by Itzhak Fried (Editor), Ueli Rutishauser (Editor), Moran Cerf (Editor), Gabriel Kreiman (Editor)
Foundational studies of the activities of spiking neurons in the awake and behaving human brain and the insights they yield into cognitive and clinical phenomena.
In the last decade, the synergistic interaction of neurosurgeons, engineers, and neuroscientists, combined with new technologies, has enabled scientists to study the awake, behaving human brain directly. These developments allow cognitive processes to be characterized at unprecedented resolution: single neuron activity. Direct observation of the human brain has already led to major insights into such aspects of... View Details
From Neuron to Brain: A Cellular and Molecular Approach to the Function of the Nervous System, Fourth Edition
by John G. Nicholls (Author), A. Robert Martin (Author), Bruce G. Wallace (Author), Paul A. Fuchs (Author)
In the 25 years since From Neuron to Brain was first published, the authors' aim has remained constant—to describe how nerve cells go about their business of transmitting signals, how the signals are put together, and how, out of this integration, higher functions emerge. The new Fourth Edition, while maintaining this focus, has been completely reformatted and updated.
The emphasis, as before, is on experiments, and on the way they are carried out. Using a narrative approach, the authors follow a line from the original inception of a new idea to an account of research being done today.... View Details
Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will
by Nancey Murphy (Author), Warren S. Brown (Author)
If humans are purely physical, and if it is the brain that does the work formerly assigned to the mind or soul, then how can it fail to be the case that all of our thoughts and actions are determined by the laws of neurobiology? If this is the case, then free will, moral responsibility, and, indeed, reason itself would appear to be in jeopardy. Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown here defend a non-reductive version of physicalism whereby humans are (sometimes) the authors of their own thoughts and actions.
Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? brings together insights from both... View Details