GrahamJOCN10 - The Packet Switching Brain Daniel Graham and...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Uncorrected Proof The Packet Switching Brain Daniel Graham and Daniel Rockmore Abstract The computer metaphor has served brain science well as a tool for comprehending neural systems. Nevertheless, we propose here that this metaphor be replaced or supplemented by a new metaphor, the Internet metaphor, to reflect dramatic new net- work theoretic understandings of brain structure and function. We offer a weak form and a strong form of this metaphor: The former suggests that structures and processes unique to Internet-like architectures (e.g., domains and protocols) can prof- itably guide our thinking about brains, whereas the latter suggests that one particular feature of the Internet packet switching may be instantiated in the structure of certain brain networks, particularly mammalian neocortex. INTRODUCTION Over the centuries, theories of how the brain works often reflect the zeitgeist of the era, articulated in terms of what- ever is the current high technology. In Descartes ʼ time, the great advancements in plumbing, culminating with the water gardens at Versailles, inspired Descartes to imag- ine the nervous system as an intricate waterworks in which the plumbing of the brain was controlled by a master valve (the pineal gland) and his interpretations of brain func- tion were guided by this metaphor. Later, Leibniz saw the brain as behaving like a mill. At the turn of the 20th century, telephones came into wide use and with them arose switchboard-inspired theories of the brain like those of the Connectionists. The most recent technological paradigm to shape the language and approach of brain science is the computer. This goes back at least to Von Neumann, influenced by work of people like McCulloch and Pitts. In this context, processing in the brain is often cast as some kind of com- putation or execution of a program to the point of map- ping memory circuits in computers to memory circuits in the brain even though few in the field believe there is a direct correspondence between these two architectures. Despite the differences and less than perfect correspon- dence, there are aspects of the analogy that can be useful: It is generally agreed that the brain, like a computer, trans- lates input data (sensory data in the brain, and user input in the computer) into an internal language (neuronal spikes for the brain, and bits for the computer), to be processed by one or more function-specific systems (brain: naviga- tion, eye movement, posture, locomotion; computer: word processor, image manipulation program, email client), that are finally expressed as some form of output (brain: speech, movement, memory trace; computer: monitor dis- play, print out, memory allocation, Internet communica- tion). Although it is important to be careful that such metaphors do not promote elaborate fictions (as noted by O ʼ Reilly, 2006), there are, in fact, useful insights and in- teresting hypotheses generated by such analogies. Perhaps
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Page1 / 10

GrahamJOCN10 - The Packet Switching Brain Daniel Graham and...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online