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It’s the Neuron! Or, How the Brain Really Works

Thursday, 13 December 2018, 2 – 3pm

It’s the Neuron! Or, How the Brain Really Works

A lecture by Professor C. Randy Gallistel (Rutgers University) as part of the Neurohumanities lecture series.

Talk abstract 
It is generally assumed that the brain’s computational capacities derive mostly from the structure of neural circuits—how it is wired—and from process(es) that rewire it in response to experience. The computationally relevant properties ascribed to the neuron itself have not changed in more than a century: It is a leaky integrator with a threshold on its output (Sherrington, 1906). The concepts at the core of molecular biology were undreamed of in Sherrington’s philosophy. They have transformed biological thinking in the last half century, resulting in modern genetics and molecular biology. But they play little role in theorizing about how brain tissue computes. The possibility that the neuron (brain cell) is a full-blown computing machine in its own right, able to store acquired information and to perform complex computations on it, has barely been considered. I urge us to consider it, and in my lecture I will outline the reasons why we should abandon the conventional thinking and conceptual dead ends of contemporary neuroscience, which assumes that information is stored at a synaptic level. I will then propose several different models for how molecules known to exist inside cells can carry acquired information in a computationally accessible form, and furthermore can act as logic gates out of which all computation may be built. I will argue how implementing memory and computation at the molecular level increases the speed, energy efficiency, and spatial efficiency of computation and memory by many orders of magnitude. Lastly, I will describe recent and iconoclastic experimental findings from a number of research groups that strongly suggest that (at least some) memory resides inside the neuron.

About the ​Neurohumanities lecture series
Neurohumanities is managed by a cross-disciplinary seminar organizing committee. These are designed to bring STEM and humanities researches to reflect, discuss and think together, as well as to provide a platform for public engagement.

It further funds workshops and discussion meetings that connect STEM and Humanities.

It also provides seed grants for the development of new interdisciplinary research, particularly in the arts and humanities that connect to neuroscience and brain health.

See the full schedule of Neurohumanities lecture series 2018 here
Find out more about the Neurohumanities Programme for 2018

Campus LocationTrinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Accessibility: Yes
Room: Neill Lecture Theatre
Event Category: Alumni, Lectures and Seminars, Public
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: Free

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