Is the human brain like a computer? Is Our Brain Comparable to the Internet and a Computer? Here are interesting questions.
For years, neuroscientists have been searching for clues about brain function through its structure, including the role of lobes and convolutions. More recently, they have been interested in how neurons are connected to each other, thanks to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
*** A “Mini-Internet” in the Brain
According to a study by scientists at the University of Southern California, published in PNAS in April 2015, The mouse’s cerebral cortex is like a mini-Internet.
The web has countless local networks that are connected to regional networks, which themselves are connected to the backbone. The brain works in a similar way.
The brain of laboratory rats is sufficiently similar to the human brain, much more complex, as to provide interesting data and impossible experiments in humans, so it is easier to study.
The cerebral cortex of a rat is composed of four networks: two local networks (in blue and red) constitute the “inner part” of the cerebral cortex of the rat: one coordinates the vision and the learning, the other the functioning muscle and other organs. Another, larger network (in green) manages the sense of smell. One last (in yellow) assembles and gives meaning to all information from the other three networks.
This mapping highlights the fact that some information flows are genetically “wired” into the brain. The data was already there; it was just necessary to compile them in an exploitable format. The researchers created a database of more than 16,000 neural connections (from 1,923 mouse brains), which they evaluate both the strength of the connection and the reliability of the methodology used to discover it. The process took more than 4,000 hours to consolidate all the data.
The team of researchers then identified the local networks, and discovered “hubs” – highly interconnected and crucial centers for linking local networks together -. Previous research has shown that regions identified by the team as “hubs” can be, when damaged, causing neurodegenerative diseases and epileptic seizures.
Researchers have relied heavily on rat brain studies because the scientific community has a remarkable amount of data in this animal. In the future, they hope to be able to extend this mapping to the entire nervous system. Thus, it could create a link between the study of the rat brain and that of the human brain. Having a map of the rat brain helps to circulate knowledge between human and animal studies. This will make it possible to verify if the discoveries made in the animal are likely to be applied in the man.
1 – The Human Brain Like a Computer – Phenomenal Storage Capacity
According to a study by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, published in eLife in January 2016, our brain would have information storage capacities ten times greater than we thought till today.
Our brain could store 1 petabyte of data. This figure represents all information on the web, 1 million billion bytes.
The human brain is made up of about 86 to 100 billion neurons. Each neuron makes about 1,000 connections with other neurons or about 100,000 billion connections. If each neuron could store only one memory, the lack of space would probably be a problem.
In reality, neurons combine so that everyone contributes to store a lot of memories at a time. This has the effect of exponentially increasing the memory capacity of the brain to something of the order of 2.5 petabytes (1 petabyte = 1 million gigabytes).
To reach such a conclusion, the neuroscientists carried out a 3D modeling of the hippocampus of a rat, the brain region at the heart of the memory. An analysis of this model a posteriori has thus revealed a diversity of sizes among the synapses, the connection areas located between the neurons. It has long been known that these elements play a key role in the treatment of brain information. This is reflected in particular the different neurological diseases related to their dysfunction. Synapses more diversified than estimated. These junctions ensure the interaction between the neurons and the proper functioning of the electrical and chemical activity governing our thoughts and memories.
Until now, the scientific community has agreed to classify synapses into three size categories: small, medium and large. However, the new modeling suggests the existence of twenty-six different types of synapses, nearly ten times more. Moreover, every two or twenty minutes, the synapses would increase or decrease by one size. According to the scientists, this variety of dimension and this capacity to transform itself would translate certain adaptability vis-a-vis the volume of information to be treated.
The results also provide an explanation of the surprising effectiveness of the brain. The adult brain on awakening generates only 20 Watts of continuous power, as much as a very low light bulb. The discovery could help computer scientists build ultra-precise computers with low power consumption, especially those using “deep learning” and networks of artificial neural techniques capable of sophisticated learning and analysis, such as speech, object recognition, and translation.
2 – Does the Brain Work like a Computer?
Our brain is probably the organ most resembling a modern computer. Not only can it process, assimilate and solve various problems, thanks to memory, but information can also be stored, used, accessed and interpreted.
The capacity of the human brain to learn and memorize information seems for the moment to have an unlimited duration. The task of calculating the memories that we can keep in bytes is not exactly easy, mainly because we do not know a reliable method for mathematically measuring memory, but a simple study of the biological properties of the brain allows us to know that we do not have to worry about “running out of space” in any moment of our life.
The computer is far superior to humans in calculating, memorizing and classifying information. However, for brain operations like reasoning, analyzing its environment and communicating, the human being surpasses it completely. Indeed, the computer is far from comprehension, from an autonomous thought and its “intelligence” resides in the programs that it executes, which must be realized by the human being.
We have about 100 billion neurons, which in turn, form 100,000 billion connections (can reach more) with other neurons. By making a rough calculation and taking into account the fact that with all these connections we multiply the capacity of our brain, we can store about 2.5 petabytes (a petabyte equals 1024 billion gigabytes). To get an idea, this storage capacity is equivalent to 3 million hours of video, some 300 years of continuous play.
3 – Comparison Between the Human Brain and Computer
The essential difference between computers and the human brain is the way the treatment is done; its configuration is fundamental.
Modern computers are nothing more than younger, more efficient versions than their great-great-grandmothers, the calculators. They still use a central clock to do the calculations and, basically, the faster this clock, the more processing capacity is important. That’s why when it comes to processors and the speed of a computer, it says 2 GHz or 3 GHz; they are frequencies, no speed, but the higher they are, the better.
A computer is made of components that work for a specific purpose. However, it requires programs that tell him how to proceed. Because these programs are man-made, these computers are not autonomous and depend on programs from the programmers’ brains. Making a computer a thing capable of learning by itself and exceeding the limits that block it (strict operation and fixed connection) is the major challenge of artificial intelligence.
The brain has an evolving structure, constantly changing, never the same person in person, it does not need a “program” to function. Even if the computer is infallible, fast and efficient in data processing that man, the flexibility of the human brain allows autonomy and total freedom and scalable functionality.
In computers the processor and the memory are not integrated, they are essentially two different elements. In the case of the brain, all are two fully assembled, which has its advantages from the point of view of the treatment, but its disadvantages are obvious since we have not yet discovered how to make an extension to our brain memory as we do it computers.
Cognitive computers will ultimately be part of our reality and make better decisions than human beings, based on data, research, and precedents and even they will reason about the best way to do things.
However, the human brain is still very complex and its mode of operation remains very imprecise for the moment, but the study continues.
4 – A Brain-Machine Wireless Interface Dedicated to the Disabled
Researchers at Brown University in partnership with BlackRock Microsystems, in 2015, developed a wireless interface that could allow people with disabilities to control computers, wheelchairs and other things in thought, without the need for external cables.
Originally born from a consortium to develop thought-control techniques for people with disabilities, the BrainGate project began a little over 10 years ago with implanted chips into the brains of patients. The chip was connected to computers via a cable and detected the electrical activity of the brain, supposed to reflect the desire to perform movements or actions. But these experiments quickly found their main limitation: none of these devices can be used in “normal” conditions. It is indeed several scientific assistants for the implant to work properly, and it is difficult for a patient to use this device in that it must be permanently connected to a multitude of cables.
Operation. The chip attached to the skull is connected to electrodes in the brain that harness the neuronal activity. The terminal consists of a wave amplifier (so that the signals are powerful enough to be reused), circuits for digitizing information as well as a radio transmitting the waves to receivers. And the information is extracted at a speed of 48 MB / s, similar speed to the Internet connection of a home. The device is powered by a battery and consumes almost nothing (only 30 milliwatts).
If some similar devices have been made before, the speed of the device can extract a large amount of data from the brain (equivalent to 200 DVDs per day).
The electrodes present in the brain are then able to harvest the activity of 100 neurons at a time. These signals can now be translated with sufficient precision to know what movement a human being wishes to achieve. Current tests on half a dozen patients and monkeys show that it is possible to control a computer mouse or even a robotic arm simply by thinking. These devices still carry risks for use in a domestic setting. They can cause infections under the skin.
The financial aspect can be a big obstacle, even if electroencephalography (EEG) technologies are now less and less expensive. Simple low-cost helmets can be used to control wheelchairs with thought. But these devices are still complex and require a much higher power to be precise and be completely reliable.
BlackRock started selling the wireless processor, called Cereplex-W and costs $ 15,000 to research labs that work with primates. Since 2015, half a dozen paralyzed patients, including in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, have been participating in trials for BrainGate.
As a Conclusion on Human Brain Like a Computer
For years, the human brain has been compared to a computer. Today, however, we can see from recent discoveries that this comparison is far from reflecting reality. “How do you get a sense of how an organ that has something like 50 billion neurons for a million billion synapses (connections), and records maybe 10 million trillion pulses per second? Asks Dr. Richard Restark. And to answer: “the performance of the most powerful neural computers […] represents about one-tenth of the mental capacity of a fly. ”
The computer does not support the comparison with the human brain, which is infinitely superior to it. What man-made computer can repair itself, rewrite its program or improve with the years? When a computer system needs a focus, a programmer must write and enter new coded instructions. Our brain does this automatically, at any age. There is nothing exaggerated to say that most modern computers are really primitive compared to the brain. Scientists have said of him that he is “the most complicated of the known structures” and “the most complex object of the universe”.
Even today many discoveries have led a multitude of people to conclude that the human brain is the work of a benevolent Creator. Is our brain comparable to the internet and a computer? It’s your turn to answer and give your point of view! Thank you!