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Brains, worms and computer chips have striking similarities
Date:4/22/2010

ordinates. A computer chip starts out as an abstract connectivity pattern, which can perform a specific function. Stage two involves mapping that connectivity pattern onto the two-dimensional surface of the chip. This mapping is a key step and must be done carefully in order to minimize the total length of wires a powerful predictor of the cost of manufacturing a chip while maintaining the abstract connectivity or function.

"Brains are similarly characterized by a precise connectivity which allows the organism to function, but are constrained by the metabolic costs associated with the development and maintenance of long 'wires,' or neurons," said Bassett. She explained that, given the similar constraints in brains and chips, it seems that both evolution and technological innovation have developed the same solutions to optimal mapping patterns.

She explained that this scaling result may further explain a well-known but little-understood relationship between the processing elements (neuronal cell bodies, or gray matter) and wiring (axons, or white matter) in the brains of a wide range of differently sized mammals from mouse to opossum to sea lion further suggesting that these principles of nervous system design are highly conserved across species.

This work suggests that market-driven human invention and natural selection have negotiated trade-offs between cost and complexity in designing both types of information processing network: brains and computer circuits.

Bassett worked closely with Edward Bullmore, professor of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. He explained: "These striking similarities can probably be explained because they represent the most efficient way of wiring a complex network in a confined physical space be that a three-dimensional human brain or a two-dimensional computer chip."


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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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