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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Biophysics - Computer Science - Neuroscience - Physics - Physiology

Computation Emerges from Adaptive Synchronization of Networking Neurons
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011
Author: Massimiliano Zanin et al.

by Massimiliano Zanin, Francisco Del Pozo, Stefano Boccaletti

The activity of networking neurons is largely characterized by the alternation of synchronous and asynchronous spiking sequences. One of the most relevant challenges that scientists are facing today is, then, relating that evidence with the fundamental mechanisms through which the brain computes and processes information, as well as with the arousal (or progress) of a number of neurological illnesses. In other words, the problem is how to associate an organized dynamics of interacting neural assemblies to a computational task. Here we show that computation can be seen as a feature emerging from the collective dynamics of an ensemble of networking neurons, which interact by means of adaptive dynamical connections. Namely, by associating logical states to synchronous neuron's dynamics, we show how the usual Boolean logics can be fully recovered, and a universal Turing machine can be constructed. Furthermore, we show that, besides the static binary gates, a wider class of logical operations can be efficiently constructed as the fundamental computational elements interact within an adaptive network, each operation being represented by a specific motif. Our approach qualitatively differs from the past attempts to encode information and compute with complex systems, where computation was instead the consequence of the application of control loops enforcing a desired state into the specific system's dynamics. Being the result of an emergent process, the computation mechanism here described is not limited to a binary Boolean logic, but it can involve a much larger number of states. As such, our results can enlighten new concepts for the understanding of the real computing processes taking place in the brain.
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