Throughout the ages, one old chestnut has stubbornly resisted yielding up its secret: the organizational principle behind the human brain.
Blindfolding mice during crucial stages of development revealed that the areas of the brain traditionally associated with seeing would be repurposed over time for other mental tasks.
“Many people have long speculated that there has to be a basic design principle from which intelligence originates and the brain evolves, like how the double helix of DNA and genetic codes are universal for every organism,” Tsien said.
The Theory of Connectivity holds that a simple algorithm, called a power-of-two-based permutation taking the form of n=2i-1 can be used to explain the circuitry of the brain.
A neuronal clique is a group of neurons which “Fire together” and cluster into functional connectivity motifs, or FCMs, which the brain uses to recognize specific patterns or ideas.
One can liken it to branches on a tree, with the neuronal clique being the smallest unit of connectivity, a mere twig, which when combined with other cliques, link up to form an FCM. The more complex the idea being represented in the brain, the more convoluted the FCM. The n in n=2i-1 specifies the number of neuronal cliques that will fire in response to a given input, i. In a recent paper, Tsien and company were able to test the theory by presenting mice with a number of different stimuli and recording the patterns of neurons that fired in response.
The results of the team’s research are likely to ripple beyond neuroscience, most importantly in the field of artificial intelligence, where a principle like this could enable the creation of artificial brains that are wired in a manner directly akin to our own.