5.12.2009

Of Seashells and Neural Networks

(via Seed)

Mollusk "seashell" construction is orchestrated by a network of nerves that interact with the environment in order to complete a progressive task. Researchers focused on the mechanism hypothesize that the mantle--the tongue-like protrusion responsible for shell construction--is constantly recording a pigment pattern "diary" that serves as a set of instructions for future shell-building.

UC Berkely biophysicist George Oster sees potential understanding of the human brain in his seashell neural network, and in other relatively simple neural processes that occur throughout the animal kingdom.
Just as pioneering experiments with oversize squid neurons in the 1940s and 50s established much of the foundation for modern neuroscience, Oster believes that modeling simple neural processes may have much broader implications for the field. For example, the primitive form of “memory” observed in mollusk neural networks might help researchers to decipher how far more sophisticated networks in the human brain enable us to use prior experience to build a picture of our world.

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