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Noise In Neurons Is good

Can noise be good? Yes, within the brain, say researchers. Brain is a very complex organ and understanding its processing mechanism has never been easy. //Meditators will agree how 'noisy' our brain is. It is constantly chattering. Researchers have come up with a finding that these 'noisy signals', help to enhance the brain's working. It is a known fact that the brain arrives at solutions to complex problems when you least expect it. We often experience that the solution to some other problem pops up when we are thinking of something else.

A research at the University of Rochester has found that the neurons get started in utterly unpredictable ways. In the November issue of Nature Neuroscience, the Rochester study shows that the brain's cortex uses seemingly chaotic, or 'noisy', signals to represent the ambiguities of the real world—and that this noise dramatically enhances the brain's processing, enabling us to make decisions in an uncertain world.

'You'd think this is crazy because engineers are always fighting to reduce the noise in their circuits, and yet here's the best computing machine in the universe—and it looks utterly random,' says Alex Pouget, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

Pouget's work for the first time connects two of the brain's biggest mysteries; why it's so noisy, and how it can perform such complex calculations. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the noise seems integral to making those calculations possible.

'One day I had a drink with some machine-learning researchers, and we suddenly said, 'Oh, it's not noise,' because noise implies something's wrong,' says Pouget. 'We started to realize then that what looked like noise may actually be the brain's way of running at optimal performance.'

As you reach your decision, you'd have a lot of trouble articulating most of the variables your brain just processed for you. Similarly, intu ition may be less a burst of insight than a rough consensus among your neurons.

'The way you learn language must be essentially the same as the way a doctor reasons out a diagnosis, and right now our lab is pushing hard to find out exactly how that noise makes all these different aspects of being human possible.'


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