Query: Dendritic Networks

Mark Laubach laubach at biogfx.neuro.wfu.edu
Mon Feb 5 14:56:57 EST 1996

In article <mike.lowndes-0102961103290001 at mac3.anat.ox.ac.uk>
mike.lowndes at anat.ox.ac.uk (Mike Lowndes) writes:

>   You can bet yr bottom pound sterling that anything written about it by a
>   physicist/mathematition/ modeller is almost bound to turn out WRONG.  The
>   only way to get it right is to understand the physiology as a first step
>   and we as neurscientists don't even understand that.

But we do understand some things and the only way to move foward is
put forth a testable model of our ideas.  As I see it,  the physicist/
mathematician/modeller and the experimental neuroscientist both do a
good bit of modelling, which usually includes an explanatory diagram.
The difference tends to be that the pure experimentalist only uses
words to explain the diagram (model), whereas the mathematically
minded researcher tends to turn the diagram into sets of equations.
Of course the equations will fail.  They are usually based on limited
data, but so is the purely verbal diagrammatic explanation.  Progress
comes when the model leads to new hypotheses that take us in new
directions.  It seems to me that equations are more specific than
words and that you have to really understand you idea to put it into

The trouble starts when the non-mathematically minded start to pull a
Bill Clinton and say that what they really mean when they drew that
picture was ...  The mathematical modeller can not do this.  The
equations are written down on paper.

My wish is that we would stop bashing each other over these sorts of
things.  We could help each other quite a bit.  Many modellers do not
know as much about a system as those that work on it daily.  Many
experimentalists know practically nothing about the sort of math you
need to model a system. 

Mark Laubach

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