Skip to main content

Monkey Brains

It is universally regarded that the brain operates via the same principles that networks operate. Neurons are analogous to nodes, synapses analogous to ties. And just as in non-brain networks, ties connecting nodes can become stronger or weaker over time, neuron connection strength is not static. Up until recently, the idea of the brain as a network has been mostly applied to particular brains in isolation. However, researchers at Duke University have changed this notion.

Instead of just studying the brain of one particular monkey, these researches decided to create a network between the brains of three monkeys. The researchers attached head gear that could read brain singles, and then connected them together. Essentially, what they were doing was creating a network of three nodes, with each node being made up of an uncountable number of nodes in each particular brain. The researchers described what they did as creating a “super brain.”

Once the monkey brains were connected to one another, the researchers created a 3d, digital avatar of an arm. Overtime, the monkeys learned to control the arm as a group just through thought, even though each monkey only has access to 2 of the 3 dimensions, and only 50% control of that. And even when one of the monkeys was distracted, the other two monkeys were capable of controlling the 3d arm, displaying resiliency. The researchers considered this akin to a specific neuron malfunctioning. The brain is still capable of operating, even when neurons fail to work.

In class, the Strong Triadic Closure Property was stated as a sociological/psychological law. In a word, the main reason that the property held true was because of human factors. However, I wonder if the property is perhaps more universal. Does it just apply to humans, or does it also apply to inanimate matter, such as brain neurons, or even monkey brains connected to one another? If monkey brain A has strong ties to monkey brains B and C, but neither B nor C is connected to one another, will the brain network seek out a connection between B and C? Additionally, I wonder if weak brain ties between monkeys are perhaps more beneficial for providing information than strong brain ties. And if brain neurons are unbalanced, which seems at least plausible, does that mean the brain will reorient itself to seek balance? I wonder about the implications of that in regard to brain structure and plasticity.


Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

September 2015
« Aug   Oct »