The Network is the Message

Aug 1, 2022Philosophy/Ethics, Tech0 comments

A continued stimulus, such as a state of tension, a light or a sound, produces a continued passage of sensory impulses to the central nervous system.

Adrian & Zotterman, 1926

Cho and John are talking about the following article:
Ask a Neuroscientist: What’s a spike train?

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Cho

Yes, it makes little sense to just zoom in on one single neuron         

Today 15:43

John

Information and information processing is distributed over the whole brain?

Today 15:43

Cho

Well, not all of it all the time. Specific pathways and modules exist for specific types of information

Today 15:44

John

Such as the “visual pathway” and stuff like that?

Today 15:44   

Cho

That’s a good example. The retina already detects and filters some signals right at the beginning

Today 15:45

Cho

and then the associative cortex deals with the end product: there’s serial and parallel aspects at all levels.

Today 15:45

John

Ok, so “it’s complicated”, again 😟

Today 15:45   

Cho

I’m afraid so! If I am not mistaken Sam once told me about his artificial neural networks and I was quite shocked at their simplicity

Today 15:46

John

Simplicity? 🤔

Today 15:46   

Cho

Well, it is not just a simplistic model of how a neuron works, but also the networks were organized in a totally biologically implausible way

Today 15:47

John

So they forgot essential features?

Today 15:48   

Cho

More like essential constraints: not every neuron is connected to every other neuron! But that is what a lot of artificial networks do

Today 15:48

John

Oh, right, that is a major difference of course!

Today 15:49   

Cho

Now I think he did tell me that there were new developments, there always are, which organized things in a more reasonable way

Today 15:50

John

I think Sam is working with “spiking neural networks” nowadays?

Today 15:51   

Cho

That sounds promising. People tend to think neurons only fire now and then, but in fact they fire all the time

Today 15:52

John

What do you mean?🤔

Today 15:53   

Cho

It’s not like they send on one impulse and then just sit there, as long as you are hearing the sound, seeing the color, etc. they fire!

Today 15:53

John

Oh, ok, so there’s lots of spikes, not just one big yes or no signal?

Today 15:53   

Cho

Indeed, we normally speak of “spike trains”, more like a telegraphed message with lots of yesses and noes 😊

Today 15:54

John

OK, this is very helpful 😉

Today 15:54   

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