Researchers find clues to brain computation while studying worms

To process vast amounts of data, the brain of C.Elegans uses a kind of digital code. Its cells produce discrete bursts of electric current, known as action potentials, which function as the zeros and ones of the nervous system. This code is assumed to be a vital aspect of computation in most animals.



Contrary to general acceptance, the brain is not a computer. But brains do, in their specific way, compute. They assimilate informational inputs to generate outputs, comprising behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.


Researchers from the Rockefeller University though this finding, overturned decades of dogma and could help scientists comprehend essential principles of brain computation. Neurons converse with one another by trading chemical messages. Each message changes the state of the receiving cell. As a neuron gathers more and more chemical input, it approaches a threshold of stimulation.


An action potential occurs when the cell reaches this threshold, at which point the neuron is said to "fire" or "spike" as an electrical impulse flows through its boundary. In producing this spike, the cell decodes analog chemical messages into digital electric code.


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