question: job of a neuron

Wolfram remove_this!helbrecht at gmx.net
Sun Sep 2 14:59:54 EST 2001


Richard  Norman <rsnorman at mediaone.net> wrote:

> On Sat, 01 Sep 2001 22:47:08 GMT, remove_this!helbrecht at gmx.net
> ("Wolfram") wrote:
> >Everywhere on the web i can read pages about _how_ neurons work,
> >_how_ they interact with others, _how_ the whole brain works (some
> >pages assert this).
> >Has yet someone figured out _what_ a neuron does, i.e. what its
> >task is?
> A neuron is a specialized animal cell that uses changes in membrane
> potential to control secretion of specialized intercellular signaling
> chemicals -- neurotransmitters.
(...)

Yes, that describes, again, the _how_ it works.

> It is really not appropriate to ask what its "task" is.  That would be
> like asking what the task of a particular "flip-flop" element in the
> internal logic of CPU storage register is.  Its task is to use its
> biochemical and biochemical machinery to process information.

Well, represents a neuron that information, or where gets it (or
another neuron) it from?

>One
> real difference between neurons and electronic computational elements
> is that neurons tend to change their properties as a result of the
> information processing they do -- they show plasticity.

This is a new thing to me (but, as said, i am a layman in the
field of neuroscience).

Does that mean, that a single neuron can behave like a whole
neural network? Or did i misunderstand you and the whole idea is
that a neuron changes its properties _only_ if there are
neighbouring neurons interacting with it, i.e. a neural network?

> It is trivial to build simple computing elements AND, OR, NOT
> circuits, out of neurons.

Did somebody do this? What happens? Do the neurons used for that
still tend to change their properties? Or do they stay as they are
and don't change anyway?

>The
> general operating principles are all fairly well known.  The devil is
> in the details.  And it is all details.

Yes. But because of that i just asked for the task of a single
neuron. :-)

One more question.

A brain does several different tasks like coordinate walking,
reading a book etc. The neurons participating in those tasks -
would they all work the same manner?

-- 

best regards, 
Wolfram




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