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 July 15, 2015

Neuroscientists decipher brain’s noisy code

By analyzing the signals of individual neurons, neuroscientists have deciphered the code the brain uses to make the most of its inherently "noisy" neuronal circuits. These green and purple hills represent the average activity for many neurons in two different brain regions. These neuronal activity patterns will differ from time to time, even in response to exactly the same sensory stimulus, and those differences set the limit for how well the brain can sense things. CREDIT: X Pitkow/Rice University

HOUSTON — By analyzing the signals of individual neurons in animals undergoing behavioral tests, neuroscientists at Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Geneva and the University of Rochester have deciphered the code the brain uses to make the most of its inherently “noisy” neuronal circuits.

The human brain contains about 100 billion neurons, and each of these sends signals to thousands of other neurons each second. Understanding how neurons work, both individually and collectively, is important to better understand how humans think, as well as to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression, traumatic brain injury and paralysis.