News Sci/Tech Human Neuron Signals: Unidirectional Communication
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Human Neuron Signals Flow in One Direction

Contrary to previous assumptions, nerve cells in the human neocortex are wired differently than in mice. Researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have discovered that human neurons communicate in one direction, while in mice, signals tend to flow in loops. This unique wiring pattern enhances the efficiency and capacity of the human brain to process information.

Understanding Neuronal Communication

The neocortex, a critical structure for human intelligence, is less than five millimeters thick. Within this thin layer, approximately 20 billion neurons process sensory perceptions, plan actions, and form the basis of our consciousness. How do these neurons process such complex information? It largely depends on their connectivity.

Distinct Wiring Patterns

Previous knowledge of neural architecture in the neocortex was primarily based on findings from animal models like mice. In those models, neighboring neurons often communicated in recurrent loops, with one neuron signaling another and vice versa. However, the human neocortex, being thicker and more complex, follows a different wiring pattern.

Using exceptionally rare tissue samples from patients who underwent neurosurgery, Charité researchers developed an improved version of the "multipatch" technique. This allowed them to listen in on the communications between neighboring neurons in the outermost layer of the human neocortex. The results revealed unidirectional communication, challenging previous assumptions.

Implications for Artificial Neural Networks

These findings have significant implications for understanding brain function and could further the development of artificial neural networks. By studying the unique wiring of human neurons, researchers may uncover novel approaches to enhance artificial intelligence systems.

Source: Science, April 18, 2024

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