Examining brain structures of more basic organisms e.g. Reptiles

#1

Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with basic organisms and work upwards?

e.g. start with a nematode worm, then try a fish, reptile, mouse, ape, and then look at human brains?

I’m finding myself getting lost in a sea of complexity, e.g. with the neocortex interacting with the thalamus.

Given that non-mammals lack a neocortex, but are still able to flourish in their environment, wouldn’t it make sense to get a firm grip on the most basic brains first? And then maybe we could follow each leap of evolution?

What is the most advanced organism for which we do understand the brain function in it’s entirety?

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#2

http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Planaria_nervous_system

They are making real inroads on the fruit fly.

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#3

That said, the brain and wiring really have been mapped to a large extent.
Yes, it is very complex.
There are good tools that have been developed to sort some of this out.
I have found that absorbing and internalizing this complexity is hard but doable; keep at it.

This is me documenting what I have discovered in my journey to understand this spaghetti tangle.

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#4

I agree with p-i. I think the best way to figure out how brains work is to see them in action.
We can actually see zebrafish brains in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKkaYDTOauQ.
In the video you can see fairly real time activity in what looks like a hindbrain, mid brain, and forebrain. How promising is that!

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#5

My chief concern is Numenta’s direction/strategy of attack.

I have worked extensively as a maths tutor. Sometimes a student is unable to solve a difficult problem. By presenting them with a sequence of simpler problems of increasing complexity, they are able to solve the puzzle.

This is my own experience as well. If I wish to understand Rachmaninov, I must start with the harmonies of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc.

An experiment was done with owls and distorting glasses. The adult owls were unable to navigate. However by starting them off with 25% distortion, then 50% then 75% then 100%, they were able to adapt.

A simpler organism such as a spider or lizard is able to process location / orientation data effectively.

Would it not make more sense to work with these more basic brains until we arrive at a healthy understanding?

Then we may be able to see our own brains as some kind of superposition / adaptation of more basic components.

Also, simply figuring out the mechanism of information-processing for an adult brain is only one piece of the puzzle. There is also the challenge of figuring out how the brain gates plasticity as the organism matures, and also the challenge of wiring in a reward system.

If we could arrive at a basic biologically plausible simulated organism interacting with its environment, learning to survive, coupled with a genetic algorithm that breeds successful organisms, then we would have something to iterate upon.

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#6

Welcome to Numenta.

They are studying the one circuit that is present in the brains of everything that has a cortex.
Just that.
Not whole brains.
Not sub-cortical structures.
Not even so much about how that one circuit is hooked to other of the same type.
Just the one basic circuit.

It is thought that this basic circuit is duplicated endlessly across the cortex of everything that has one.

It’s not like they are the only ones at this game.
Other people are studying the other critters.
And single neuronal cells.
And just synapses of those single neuronal cells.
And just the signalling mechanisms of those synapses.
And just the genetic mechanism that creates that cell those synapses and those chemical messengers.
And just the metabolism of neuronal cells and the related cells that support them.
And the pretty much anything you can think of related to any aspect of this field.
So rest your fears that these lower critters are being ignored.
They are not.

Numenta is studying the basis of computation for everything that has what is considered “higher functions” of thinking. As someone who has been reading the work of researchers in the neuro-computational field since the early 1980’s, I think that the work at Numenta happens to be looking in the right place.
That is why I am here.

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#7

Here’s an interesting neuron worth our knowing about, from a fly:

https://neurosciencenews.com/ct1-presynaptic-cells-12073

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30398-7

Credit to Camp for bringing this one to my attention.

#8

@Bitking Thank you for taking the trouble to address my concern!

https://www.evogeneao.com/explore/tree-of-life-explorer helps to give me some perspective.

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