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Medicine Science

New Map IDs the Core of the Human Brain 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-want-to-see-what-you're-thinking dept.
gerald626 writes "An international team of researchers has created the first complete high-resolution map of how millions of neural fibers in the human cerebral cortex — the outer layer of the brain responsible for higher-level thinking — connect and communicate. Their groundbreaking work identified a single network core, or hub, that may be key to the workings of both hemispheres of the brain. So basically our brain is a network connected to a hub. I wonder if I can get an upgrade to a GigE switch?"
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New Map IDs the Core of the Human Brain

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  • hub? (Score:5, Funny)

    by JazzyMusicMan (1012801) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:25AM (#24039739)
    I always thought the geek brain was based on token ring topology with the different nodes responsible for:
    • eat
    • sleep
    • video games
    • pr0n

    all running round robin =)

  • by Dyne09 (1305257) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:25AM (#24039741)
    Come on, you know it's coming.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:29AM (#24039769) Journal

    Their groundbreaking work identified a single network core, or hub, that may be key to the workings of both hemispheres of the brain.

    ...pfft! The male gender of the species' "hub" is connected by a pair of some really long leads... they go down the spine, and connect directly to the testicles.

    The female of the species' "hub" goes straight to the left ring finger.

    How much friggin' tax money did these guys spend discovering what we've already known for at least six millennia now?

    /P

    • by William Robinson (875390) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:33AM (#24040113)

      Their groundbreaking work identified a single network core, or hub, that may be key to the workings of both hemispheres of the brain.

      ...pfft! The male gender of the species' "hub" is connected by a pair of some really long leads... they go down the spine, and connect directly to the testicles.

      The female of the species' "hub" goes straight to the left ring finger.

      /P

      Absolutely. And one needs to insert Gateway to establish a VPN.

      It's different story that females PKI mechanism is still unknown, and male species have to rely on brute force techniques to decipher some of the data, which unfortunately takes years after VPN is established.

    • by bagsc (254194)

      The female ring finger locus is actually a quite recent evolutionary phenomenon. The "tradition" of a diamond wedding ring was started by DeBeers in the 1930's.

      • On the contrary, wedding and engagement rings go back for over 500 years, although back then, even the wedding ring was just for the woman. The idea of the diamond as the "standard" jewel for an engagement ring was created by the DeBeers campaign, though.

  • Are schitzophrenics equipped with a neural equivalent of a dlink hub?

    • Close. It's a Belkin. Dlink causes manic depression.

  • by geckipede (1261408) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:32AM (#24039793)
    So we've found a candidate for the centre of consciousness in the brain. Who's up to volunteer to have it removed to see if they turn into a philosophical zombie?
    • Seriously, if we're going to kill them anyway, why not ask for volunteers to be experimented on? Anyone who survives, gets to have their sentence commuted?

      • by servognome (738846) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:29AM (#24040091)
        Hell, let's make it entertaining while we're at it, equip them with guns and send out guards in funny themed suits to hunt them down. Maybe use a CGI representation of that guy who hosted Family Fued to MC the whole event.
        • by neomunk (913773)

          Oooooo, we can use the Chunk O' Brain we took out to finally get a computer to have that neat 'enhance' feature too. :-D

      • by story645 (1278106) *

        It's unconstitutional? 8th amendment, cruel and unusual punishment, all that.

        It's also ethically questionable. Prisoners are an institutionalized population, and are therefore a vulnerable population (children, mentally ill fall here too) so a researchers gotta jump through a couple of hoops to get clearance to use them. It'd probably be really hard, if not impossible because of the reward, to get this past an IRB.

        All that aside, from a scientific standpoint the findings are of limited value because it's a

        • by aussie_a (778472)

          It's unconstitutional? 8th amendment, cruel and unusual punishment, all that.

          If the constitution says its unethical to do something that MIGHT kill them but its 100% okay to do something that will kill them then the Constitution isn't worth the paper its written on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hao Wu (652581)
      Imagine fitting your kids with filters and "plug-ins" to make sure they turn out a certain way... there will be modules for "Kindness".... or "Pride" (no matter whether it is earned- your child will always feel proud).

      "Christian" filters... "Jihad" algorithms.... Conservative and Liberal perception devices.... Behavioral controls, perhaps used as terms of parole (for violent criminals OR political prisoners).

      Why have disagreeable children when you can program perfectly behaved clones of yourself?
      • by Mia'cova (691309)

        Who said a clone would be agreeable? :) But I say we let people make clones and made-to-order children if they want. To me, that's our next big step in our evolution. Although, it would be much nicer if we developed the ability to change ourselves and evolve without needing a thousand generations of crappy offspring first :) It'd be like changing your resolution. If it turns out badly, just revert back and try something else.

      • by Chemisor (97276) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:07AM (#24041275)

        > Imagine fitting your kids with filters and "plug-ins" to make sure they turn out a certain way.

        We already do. It's called "parenting". You do it by talking to them, and yes, it does work if you do it properly.

      • by ciaohound (118419)

        and, of course, a kill switch [slashdot.org]

    • Who's up to volunteer to have it removed to see if they turn into a philosophical zombie?

      As I understand the concept, you wouldn't be able to tell. The philosophical zombie is a creature which acts just as if it were conscious - it even holds sensible conversations - but which is in fact not conscious.

      So, you walk up to a zombie and ask 'Are you a zombie?' It answers, 'No, of course not: I'm a conscious human being.' And however cleverly you interrogate it, you cannot distinguish it from a human being.

  • Not a switch. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BobandMax (95054) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:33AM (#24039801)

    You would not want a switch. Isolating all but broadcast packets to just their destination would stifle creativity. It has to be a hub and bandwidth in a highly-interconnected net may be unimportant.

    • by neomunk (913773)

      Yeah, what you said, but I'd like to add something about bandwidth. It's a function of data per time period, and I'd think that having a higher interconnection speed could very well lead to a quickening of thought process, ONLY if the underlying signal PROCESSING nodes can keep up, and since AFAIK that's a more complicated chemical process it would seem to me that it would be difficult to adjust it. 'Uppers' can make your thought process faster, but I have no idea about what mechanisms determine the upper

      • by x2A (858210)

        In my experience, amphetamines don't so much speed up the thought process, but change the ability to control focus (some people it improves focus, others it does the oposite). In computer terms, it may seem like I'm running a faster processor, but actually I'm disconnecting other running threads, freeing the memory bandwidth they'd be using to be usable by my primary thread (the task at hand).

    • Re:Not a switch. (Score:5, Informative)

      by mattwarden (699984) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:59AM (#24040213) Homepage

      I'm trying to figure out what you mean by this, but I'm not sure I have it. If you meant the hub metaphor the whole way, then no that isn't how it works. If all messages went to all destinations, you can imagine how difficult it would be to make any sense of them. Further, when an area receives input, it is not a stateless message. It is received in a state of "sensitivity" (for lack of a more detailed explanation) and the fact that it is received in its state also alters the local state for future messages. The easiest example is sensory desensitization... like when you no longer smell that horrible smell once you've been in the sysadmin's office for a few minutes. The same destinations are getting the same inputs, but the local state has changed due to previous inputs and therefore there is a different result.

      So you can see that if all destinations got all inputs the brain would basically "white out" and be useless. The fact is that there is a very specific network structure. Each local network has projections into other local networks, which is why emotions and different sensory modalities have impacts on each other and on other "unrelated" areas of the brain.

  • GigE (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

    I wonder if I can get an upgrade to a GigE switch?

    Are you sure it would be an upgrade? The brain is a pretty incredible organ.

    • by aussie_a (778472)

      Considering I've heard gerald626 say he upgraded to Vista, I'd say it still counts as an upgrade for him.

    • Agreed. The densely woven physical layer carries timing information in the analog domains, with extensive cross-connections, that are very difficult to simulate in a classical Turing machine or binary network. The switches between complex analog mixing and routing, and the centralization or near digitization of the signals to provide reliable low bandwidth communications to more central or more remote processing, is material all network engineers could learn quite a lot from.

  • by wherrera (235520) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:56AM (#24039909) Journal
    Their newly mapped "medial and parietal cortex hub" is pretty close to the pineal gland [wikipedia.org], after all :).
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by MarshMan1101 (1137085) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:59AM (#24039919)
    Now we just need to figure out how to perform a denial of service attack.
  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:09AM (#24039969)
    So basically our brain is a network connected to a hub.

    Now it's just a matter of figuring out the protocol used and hooking up a few brains together. Seriously
  • Re: "GigE" (Score:2, Funny)

    by devjj (956776) *
    "I wonder if I can get an upgrade to a GigE switch?" I look forward to re-reading this in three years.
  • ...Artificial Intelligence programming to come to these results?

  • by iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @01:39AM (#24040147)
    Imagine a Beowolf Cluster of these... Wait, isn't that basically a "Think Tank"?
  • Protect individuals (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hao Wu (652581)
    Humans need to start defining the brain in terms of their rights -- specifically, that nobody has a right to read, write, or interfere with information within these nerve centers against our wishes.

    Not at ANY age, nor for ANY contract or job application.
  • A bit less, please (Score:3, Informative)

    by tgv (254536) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @02:59AM (#24040417) Journal

    Diffusion imaging is not new and the problems are well-known. Basically, you try to estimate a flow by sampling a lot of points and connect them if they go in (more or less) the same direction. If a flow (in this case a fiber) changes direction too much between sample points, you make a mistake. Also, averaging over 5 people can lead to strange errors, but I guess the authors are competent enough to avoid those pitfalls.

    The thing about the hub isn't that interesting: don't think all traffic passes through it. And these fiber tracts are not supposed to do much processing anyway. It does strike me that the map is asymmetrical.

    One of the authors is quoted as saying: "This means that if we know how the brain is connected we can predict what the brain will do." That should probably be: from knowing the structure we can partially predict the BOLD response (what you measure in fMRI). So much for journalism.

  • by HuguesT (84078) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @03:25AM (#24040493)

    This is a very nice article, freely available to boot. However this is not the end of the story. Connectivity was discovered throught DT-MRI, essentially today yields an orientation tensor at each voxel. At present DT-MRI is really low resolution. There is quite a bunch of guesswork in the final result.

    • And getting it to a higher resolution means depositing more energy in the tissue. We shouldn't ever expect MRI, or any similar technique, to provide really high resolution measurement without damaging tissue.
      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        fMRI has always had issues with the fact that it doesn't measure time-varying signals very well in the brain. Which means that it basically can't track fast brain activity, since it needs 2 to 5 seconds to resolve.

        Doppler Sonography by contrast provides a way of measuring neural activity with a high degree of resolution in the time domain:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17290143 [nih.gov]

        Learned this in the very excellent Brain Hacks book by O'Reilly, which isn't about hacking the brain, really, at all, but just a

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Doppler ultrasound has the same problem as fMRI: it depends on blood flow changes. Naturally blood flow response has a delay associated with it, relative to the actual neural activity. Basically, you're sampling the same slow responding phenomenon with a faster sampling rate. Plus you can only get data from a small area around the temples and not at all in many people who's skulls are too thick.

          Many labs are combining fMRI and EEG. EEG gives you good temporal resolution by actually sampling the electric

  • tubes (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    geeks using a networking analogy to describe the brain.
    sounds as lame as senators using a tubes analogy to describe the internet.
    nooge.

  • by emilper (826945) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @04:10AM (#24040613)

    You already have a yotabyte switch. All you need is an upgrade to the BS detector ROM.

  • Looks like how my head feels after 10 hours solid maintainig legacy code...
  • Male VS female brain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by V!NCENT (1105021) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @06:42AM (#24041159)
    I'd like to see the maps of both the male and the female brain. The female brain is smaller but has a larger hub between the RH and LH of the brain. That is why females can think of many things at ones. Another big difference between males and females is that males fixate all the power of their brains on a single thing, while females spread the power of their brain of many things. So the male and the female brain must differ a lot. It should be quite interesting to compare both brain maps.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is a theory of conciousness that can get some support from this hub thingy.

    Basically, why are we conscious? Apart from the world becoming much more boring it should be some kind of biological advantage to evolve that way.

    The theory states that consciousness is similar to a theater. With only one stage and one focus of light.
    Attendants to the play are all the brain subsystems.
    Actors are all the subconscious process wanting to become conscious (the current inputs of senses , memory, etc.). They compete

  • by hoodrat1140 (903869) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:12AM (#24041295)
    ...Prof. C. McGinn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_McGinn) Quote: ...He goes on to point out that "if one could know everything about your brain of a neural kind ...its anatomy, its chemical ingredients, the pattern of electrical activity in its various segments ...the position of every atom and its subatomic structure ...everything that that materialist says your mind is, do I thereby know everything about your mind? It certainly seems not. On the contrary, I know nothing about your mind, I know nothing about which conscious states you are in ... and what those states feel like to you ... knowledge of the brain does not give me knowledge of your mind. How then can the two be said to be identical?"...(The Mysterian Manifesto: Shakespeare, McGinn and Me, http://www.observer.com/node/43473 [observer.com])
    • ...everything that that materialist says your mind is, do I thereby know everything about your mind?

      If I gave you 100-trillion lines of spaghetti code, would you say you know everything about how the program works?

  • by smchris (464899) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:38AM (#24041395)

    Can't decide whether this is great news or not.

    On the one hand, it should give AI research some inspiration on how to interface various AI functions.

    On the other hand, there's the slacker nature of evolution. Is the human brain really the _best_ we can do? The paradigm might set back AI theorizing for decades.
       

  • Isn't this topology patented? Are we all going to have to pay royalties to Al Gore to use our brains?

  • Key (Score:2, Interesting)

    > Their groundbreaking work identified a single network core, or hub, that may
    > be key to the workings of both hemispheres of the brain.

    Important, yes. Key to the Big Picture, i.e. consciousness? Doubtful. Your brain is really two brains, each lobe capable of thought and consciousness without the other. People can and do have hemispherectomies, believe it or not, and still remain conscious.

    I wonder if anyone like this ever understood AI and could describe the experience, though.

  • by Xeth (614132) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:39AM (#24042741) Journal

    I'm always surprised by the apparent discontinuity between the sort of AI research that goes on in computer science departments (where "connectionism" is a dirty word), and the fact that a lot of modern neuroscientists seem to think that we'll solve a lot of the brain by figuring out the connections.

    And, honestly, I don't think that DSI/DTI is really going to give us very much insight beyond bulk connectionism. When I spoke to Walter Schneider at a Neuromorphic computing workshop this past April, he told me that these sorts of processes operate at at a resolution around a tenth of a millimeter. While that's good for determining the highways of the brain, you can't very well figure out how a steel mill works by looking at a map its delivery trucks follow.

  • by berwiki (989827)
    I'm no brain-scientist, but I imagine 'upgrading' to a GigE switch (as you put it) would more likely be a downgrade.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      A GigE switch would probably be a really good upgrade. The only problem is, you'd have to have a few billion ports on it.

  • The article is really light on details, yes IRTFA. It describes its use of a "highly sensitive MRI variant, called diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI), to depict the orientation of multiple fibers that cross a single location." So what they found was the highways or major paths that neuronal axons use when they "cross a single location". Sporns said. "We can measure a significant correlation between brain anatomy and brain dynamics. This means that if we know how the brain is connected we can predict what th
  • Why, mine of course...
  • So basically our brain is a network connected to a hub. I wonder if I can get an upgrade to a GigE switch?

    Cybermen will remove fear. Cybermen will remove sex, and class, and color, and creed. You will become identical. You will become like us.

    Begin upgrading.

  • Seeing this map is wonderful, and marks a milestone in neuroscience. Now, the burning question is how this neural map differs from person to person, between the sexes, and across cultures. Would the neural map of someone in Japan be different from someone in the US? Would the neural map of a geek like those of us who slash-dot everyday differ from, say, a lawyer, a brick-layer, or a street-sweeper, or more importantly, the managers we work for?

    :-)

    I say that VERY tongue-in-cheek, being a high-tech manager

My idea of roughing it turning the air conditioner too low.

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