November 28, 2012 23:45
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University opened the mystery of the birth of thoughts in our head. Now scientists know how fluctuations of electrical activity allow the brain to form thoughts and memories.
One of the biggest mysteries of neuroscience — this encoding thoughts, perception, memory, at the cellular level. Some evidence suggests that each unique piece of information to record and playback specific ensembles of neurons, but until now no one knew how the bands look and image.
A new study by U.S. scientists shed light on how neural networks allow us to think. Scientists have found some synchronized groups of neurons that encode specific behavioral rules.
During the experiment, the researchers trained monkeys to respond to certain objects: their color and orientation in space. This requires cognitive flexibility — the ability to switch between two different sets of rules of conduct. Simply put, the monkeys had to focus on specific information while ignoring the other. At this point, the researchers measured brain waves in different locations throughout the prefrontal cortex.
Brain waves are generated by rhythmic fluctuations of electrical activity of neurons. When the animals reacted to the orientation of the object, certain neurons fluctuated at high frequencies, producing the so-called beta waves. When monkeys react to color, beta waves start to generate in a different neural networks. However, some neurons belong to both ensembles, but each band has its own unique characteristics.
Interestingly, the researchers also found variations in the low frequency range of alpha waves. According to scientists, the alpha waves help suppress certain brain activity, such as the activity of neurons that are responsible for understanding the orientation of the object and its color hinder comprehension. These results explain how the brain creates any appropriate behavioral responses to countless combinations of incentives, regulations and necessary action. Brain instantly synchronizes neurons and activates the corresponding neuronal ensembles. The number of neural networks is enormous, and is comparable to the number of possible combinations of 10-digit telephone numbers.
The opening of U.S. scientists makes it possible to understand some of the features of our consciousness. For example, the main characteristic of consciousness is its limited capacity — in short, at the same time you can think about the small quantity of ideas. It is now clear that this is due to the limited amount of information that can fit in a single oscillation cycle. If these variations are violated, you may have various neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia.
The researchers are now trying to figure out how these neural networks coordinate their activities, and how the brain switches between different thoughts. Some neuroscientists believe that this process is responsible for the deep structures of the brain, such as the thalamus. In general, one of the greatest mysteries of science is still not solved, but scientists are close to getting an answer to the eternal question: what controls our thoughts.