We are trying to understand emergent properties of networks of neurons
Our work focuses on understanding how groups of brain cells work together to process information. We approach this topic by using advanced arrays with hundreds of tiny wires to eavesdrop on electrical signals within small pieces of brain tissue. To explain how networks of interacting brain cells give rise to patterns of signals, we borrow ideas from statistical physics, where the self-organized patterns of multiple interacting particles have been well-studied. This interdisciplinary research extends the boundaries of physics into the field of neuroscience. Our work has the potential to provide new ideas for the design of “brain-like” computing devices. It also may aid our understanding of conditions like epilepsy, where groups of brain cells interact in pathological ways.
We are very excited about this video that was recently posted by Quanta Magazine on the Critical Brain Hypothesis. An article that accompanies it can be found here: https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-physical-theory-for-when-the-brain-performs-best-20230131/
My new book was published by MIT Press on August 30, 2022. It is open access and gives an introductory overview to the research that our group and others have been doing the last 20 years. This work shows that the cortex operates in a narrow region, near a critical point, for optimum performance.
It is also available in paperback now on Amazon - just click the book cover on the left and it will take you to the site.
Homework exercises for chapters 1-7 can be found here.
Experimental data useful for the exercises can be found at the links given below.
1. Shinya Ito, Fang-Chin Yeh, Nicholas M. Timme, Pawel Hottowy, Alan M. Litke, and John M. Beggs (2016); Spontaneous spiking activity of hundreds of neurons in mouse somatosensory cortex slice cultures recorded using a dense 512 electrode array.
2. Nicholas M. Timme, Najja Marshall, Nicholas Bennett, Monica Ripp, Edward Lautzenhiser, and John M. Beggs (2016); Spontaneous spiking activity of thousands of neurons in rat hippocampal dissociated cultures. https://crcns.org/data-sets/hc/hc-8
3. Spontaneous local field potential (LFP) activity from acute cortical slices recorded from a 60 electrode array can be found here.