What is perhaps the most wonderous and fascinating creation of nature, the brain, attracting, on one level or another, over centuries, human curiosity, becomes a welcoming territory to be explored from a fresh new perspective of mathematical and cortical synergies in Prof. Yoram Baram's latest publication.
Have over a hundred years of brain research revealed all its secrets? An incredibly large body of knowledge and understanding of brain and mind does not seem to have eliminated the sense of a missing link connecting it all.
The Subcritical Brain: A Synergy of Segregated Neural Circuits in Memory, Cognition and Sensorimotor Control was motivated by a realization that it is the synergy of certain mathematical concepts that holds the key to a more comprehensive and complete understanding of cortical function and behavior.
The first question which might follow such a claim is "why would we turn to advanced mathematics, when there are all these experimental findings on cortical function and behavior?" The answer is that experimental research, by nature, requires a high degree of specificity.
Consequently, seemingly separate issues, such as cortical development, inter-neuron connectivity, neuronal firing dynamics, learning, memory and medical condition, have been experimentally studied in essentially complete mutual isolation.
On the other hand, mathematical analysis, characterized by absolute formality and accuracy, can, subject to parameterization, apply to neural circuits of different characteristics and functions, so as to simultaneously reveal small and large-scale cortical activities resulting in a large variety of outcomes.
A particularly notable conclusion of this book is that small neural circuits are more efficient than large circuits, providing decisively higher information storage and processing capacities. Shown to be a joint consequence of the theories of random graphs, prime numbers, dynamical systems and quantum computation, the small-circuit paradigm is linguistically consistent with the short-word limitation underlying both natural and artificial (e.g., computer) languages.
Small circuits are shown to define primal-size categories, which explain experimental psychological tests of "working memory". Trees of such circuits are shown to facilitate maximum-length non-repetitious meta-periodic firing, holding the key to memory of large-scale scenic, spoken, written and musical items.
Beyond these discoveries, the book systematically addresses the relationships between firing-rate dynamics and developmental stages, on the one hand, and such attributes as symmetry, asymmetry, synchrony and asynchrony in cortical functions, on the other.
The clinically tested effects of the underlying mathematical concepts on sensorimotor control in healthy as well as neurologically impaired humans are presented, along with basic mathematically-implied movement strategies in such beings as birds.