Computing with microtubules (Craddock, Tuszynski, Hameroff 2012)

This paper hypothesizes that postsynaptic CaMKII (calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II) receives synaptic input and then interacts with via phosphorylation, suggesting that memories may be encoded in the microtubules in this way. They note that the size and shape of CaMKII appears to be just right to phosphorylate the hexagonal lattices of tubulin proteins in microtubules. The paper also can “demonstrate microtubule-associated protein logic gates, and show how patterns of phosphorylated tubulins in microtubules can control neuronal functions by triggering axonal firings, regulating synapses, and traversing scale.”. Via ScienceDaily.

Travis J. A. Craddock, Jack A. Tuszynski, Stuart Hameroff. Cytoskeletal Signaling: Is Memory Encoded in Microtubule Lattices by CaMKII Phosphorylation? PLoS Computational Biology, 2012; 8 (3): e1002421 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002421.

Single neurons can distinguish inward temporal sequences from outward

“activating synapses in a centrifugal sequence (outward from the soma) caused a different [lesser] [cortical pyramidal] neuronal response than activating the synapses in a centripetal (inward) sequence”

Alain Destexhe. Dendrites Do It in Sequences (24 September 2010)
Science 329 (5999), 1611.


Tiago Branco, Beverley A. Clark, and Michael Häusser. Dendritic Discrimination of Temporal Input Sequences in Cortical Neurons (24 September 2010)
Science 329 (5999), 1671.

Dendritic organization of sensory input to cortical neurons in vivo

Jia, H., Rochefort, N., Chen, X., & Konnerth, A. (2010). Dendritic organization of sensory input to cortical neurons in vivo Nature, 464 (7293), 1307-1312 DOI: 10.1038/nature08947

Consider a a cortical neuron in V1, layer 2/3, whose output shows sharp orientation tuning. What are the orientation tunings of the most important inputs to that neuron? What is the spatial distribution of these inputs in the neuron’s dendritic tree?

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IBM Cat Brain Simulation Scuffle: Symbolic?

You’ve probably read by now about the announcement by IBM’s Cognitive Computing group that they had created a “computer system that simulates and emulates the brain’s abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition” at the “scale of a cat cortex”.    For their work, the IBM team led by Dharmendra Modha was awarded the ACM Gordon Bell prize, which recognizes “outstanding achievement in high-performance computing”.

A few days later, Henry Markram, leader of the Blue Brain Project at EPFL, sent off an e-mail to IBM CTO Bernard Meyerson harshly criticizing the IBM press release, and cc’ed several reporters. This brought a spate of shock media into the usually placid arena of computational neuroscience reporting, with headlines such as “IBM’s cat-brain sim a ‘scam,’ says Swiss boffin: Neuroscientist hairs on end”, and “Meow! IBM cat brain simulation dissed as ‘hoax’ by rival scientist”.  One reporter chose to highlight the rivalry as cat versus rat, using the different animal model choice of the two researchers as a theme.  Since then, additional criticisms from Markram have appeared online.

Find out more after the jump.

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Henry Markram on TED – video online

We had read that Dr. Henry Markram of the Blue Brain project had given a talk at TED (technology, entertainment, design), but the video wasn’t released until this month.  This talk is geared towards a general audience, rather than getting into the specific details of the Blue Brain project, as he has before.  It is engaging and includes many suggestions towards the future of neuroscience and AI.

Watch it online at the TED website.

Frontiers in Neuroscience Journal

The journal, Frontiers in Neuroscience, edited by Idan Segev, has made it Volume 3, issue 1.  Launching last year at the Society for Neuroscience conference, its probably the newest Neuroscience-related journal.

I’m a fan of it because it is an open-access journal featuring a “tiered system” and more.  From their website:

The Frontiers Journal Series is not just another journal. It is a new approach to scientific publishing. As service to scientists, it is driven by researchers for researchers but it also serves the interests of the general public. Frontiers disseminates research in a tiered system that begins with original articles submitted to Specialty Journals. It evaluates research truly democratically and objectively based on the reading activity of the scientific communities and the public. And it drives the most outstanding and relevant research up to the next tier journals, the Field Journals.

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Theory rising

Although it’s a few months old, Larry Abbott has an excellent article in Neuron on the recent (last 20 years) contributions of theoretical neuroscience. (He came by MIT last week to give a talk and that’s when I found out about the article.) It’s a review that is not too long and provides a good overview with both sufficient (though not overwhelming) detail and original perspective. It’s rare to find a short piece that is so informative. (And for a more experimentally-oriented review with an eye toward the future, see Rafael Yuste’s take on the grand challenges.)

Click on for some of my favorite passages from the Abbott piece. Continue reading