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Harmony in numbers

Frankfurt researchers find a simple explanation for the typical patterns of nerve cells inside neural maps.

2017_number_of_neuronsThe human brain consists of a highly complex network of approximately 85 billion nerve cells (neurons), which continually exchange information with each other. In order for this complex network to function efficiently, it is important that the distances between neurons encoding similar properties remain relatively short. In the human visual system and in that of many mammals, the neurons that respond to objects with similar orientation are indeed located near each other. Interestingly, such an ordered structure cannot be found in rodents. Researchers from the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience have studied why such differences between these animal species exist using two different computer models. Unexpectedly, the researchers found that the existence of this ordered structure is not only determined by the connectivity in the circuit, but also by the total number of neurons. Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences].

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