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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hypothalamus as Brain Operating System?

In Technology Review:
Coordinating sensory inputs, making sense of them, and coordinating response.  Have seen this mentioned before, but we should be cautious about using computer inspired models.  The article points to come recent models we reacted to in recent years.  Much work is still being done based on those models.  But how simplistic is that?  I like some metaphorical thoughts from the article: 

" .... In the same vein, Caltech’s Anderson points out that the public and scientific infatuation with functional MRI studies over the last two decades has created the impression that certain regions of the brain act as “centers” of neural activity—that the amygdala is the “center” of fear, for example, or the hypothalamus is the “center” of aggression. But he likens fMRI to looking down on a nighttime landscape from an airplane at 30,000 feet and “trying to figure out what is going on in a single town.” Optogenetics, by contrast, has provided a much more detailed view of that tiny subdivision of cells in the hypothalamus, and thus a much more complex and nuanced picture of aggression. Activating specific neurons in that little town can tip an organism to make war, but activating the neurons next door can nudge it to make love. ... " 

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