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'Giant' Neuron Regulates 50,000 Other Neurons 81

Scottingham sends this quote from PhysOrg: "A single interneuron controls activity adaptively in 50,000 neurons, enabling consistently sparse codes for odors (abstract). The brain is a coding machine: it translates physical inputs from the world into visual, olfactory, auditory, tactile perceptions via the mysterious language of its nerve cells and the networks which they form. Neural codes could in principle take many forms, but in regions forming bottlenecks for information flow (e.g., the optic nerve) or in areas important for memory, sparse codes are highly desirable. ... This single giant interneuron tracks in real time the activity of several tens of thousands of neurons in an olfactory centre and feeds inhibition back onto all of them, so as to maintain their collective output within an appropriately sparse regime. In this way, representation sparseness remains steady as input intensity or complexity varies."
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'Giant' Neuron Regulates 50,000 Other Neurons

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  • in brain of locusts (Score:5, Informative)

    by N1ck0 (803359) on Friday May 13, 2011 @03:53PM (#36122082)
    Key part of the article that is not in the small summary...

    Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt have now discovered a single neuron in the brain of locusts that enables the adaptive regulation of sparseness in olfactory codes
  • Re:In the fly... (Score:4, Informative)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday May 13, 2011 @04:53PM (#36122614)
    Wrong. Invertebrate model organisms are how most discoveries about the mammalian brain started off and continue to be how we discover the basics. On the most obvious level, THIS IS A NEURON. Same type of cell your brain is made up of.

    As far as one individual meganeuron in your head, maybe not. I think the histologists of the past would have realized if there were giant neurons similar to this. In the 1800's, they were using advanced staining techniques to show the shape of cells, I think if one neuron were synapsing with that many neurons, it would have shown up with golgi staining back then, or with the brainbow mouse [] more recently.

    The concept of bottlenecking information when sparsity is necessary: that probably IS a valuable lesson for human brains. It probably isn't a single cell, but the concept is still possible with a smaller number of cells.

    Anyway, as a general rule, it's idiotic to write off any valid scientific findings as "not interesting" just because they don't immediately beat you over the head with the relevance.

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. -- Dr. Johnson