Part of our mind

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October / November 1976

From Pharmacology and the Brain: From ancient times the drugs are used to restore mental health or to study the mind. It was said that Homer’s doctor Polydama had given Menelaus and Helena a “medicine against sorrow and anger, a medicine to survive despair” on the way home to Troy. The number of mind-boggling drugs available today is innumerable. Some have changed the course of medical practice; others have changed the structure of our society. Many of them have greater specificity of action and fewer side effects than ever. The development of such drugs parallels our increased knowledge of how drugs act at the molecular level to change behavior. In this regard, one of the most fruitful research approaches involves studying how nerve cells communicate with other cells in the body and how different drugs can alter that communication.

May / June 1987

From Designing Computers That Think Our Way: Neuroscientists have realized that the architecture of the brain is central to its function. Individual neurons are not intelligent in themselves, but when they are connected to each other, they become quite intelligent. The problem is that no one knows how they do it. Not that neurons are fast: sending their electrochemical messages to other neurons, they are 100,000 times slower than a typical computer switch. But what our brains lack in speed, they make up for in “wet software,” as they sometimes call it. The brain contains between 10 billion and a trillion neurons, each of which can be connected by 1,000 to 100,000 others. If this vast network of interconnected neurons forms the great collective conspiracy we call our minds, perhaps a vast network of interconnected mechanical switches can make a machine think.

July / August 2014

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