Question

Geography and Logic of Brain

What sense does it make for some functions to be localized in some parts of the brain? Does brain follow any 'geographical' sense - cold near mountains, less oxygen at high altitudes, hot at equator, one type of vegitation in one type of soil etc. That means, although some parts of the brain perform some functions but why only that region? And what significance is there for that region to be performing that particular function?

Do neurons follow any logic or there are just random connections common to all? Like we can't have head near feet and arms at back or fingers 10 ft. long, then why does it seem from so many researches and empirical evidence that brain doesn't have any logical organization of neurons? I wonder many times whenever I read a fresh article or chapter about brain and some of its function, I come up with finding new areas and connections which do not seem to be compatible with my previous knowledge and other information. That means neuroscience is discovering areas of brain responsible for certain functions, but are there any explanations that why some areas are specialized for certain functions and what significance does this hold in the architecture of brain in relation to other areas?

Same areas are found responsible for many different functions and vice versa. Why can't brain just make some sense, when it comes to situating higher functions? Why can't just one type of soil be found in one particular region and not others. When complex nature and its geography follows patterns, why not brain. Is it that we have still not found a proper 'map' of the brain still, to be able to make any sense in its 'geography'?

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  • Arvind Iyer · University of Southern California
    Focusing on the first question i.e. "What sense does it make for some functions to be localized in some parts of the brain?", one hypothesis that has been advanced to explain functional localization is the so-called 'Minimal Wiring Hypothesis' i.e. proximity of neurons performing like function helps avoid expensive long-range neuronal connections. Here is an article that suggesting that feature maps in the visual cortex are laid out in a manner that satisfies the condition of optimal neuronal wiring.
    http://redwood.berkeley.edu/vs265/durbin-mitchison.pdf
  • Ari Munive · Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP)
    This blog could help you!!
    Http://muveokte.blogspot.mx/2012/11/evolution-of-human-intellect-human.html
  • Deleted
    I've always enjoyed Damasio's research on neural networks, particularly as related to language representation. This paper is a little dated, but interesting:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/90/11/4957.full.pdf

    His work was also broadly discussed I think in a 1999 issue of Scientific American "How the Brain Creates the Mind," but it doesn't seem to be freely available online.

    I've always wished I had a general overview of the links between cell type and neuropsychological function, even one that was very, very speculative, but I don't have a deep enough background in Neurochemistry to know who might be doing such work in this field.
  • Deleted
    George Lakoff has a good, clear review of Damasio's Convergent Zone Hypothess:

    http://georgelakoff.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/convergence-zones-and-conceptual-structure-lakoff-1993.pdf

    "Embodied Cognition" is already yesterday's fish wrap, and nobody told me. The new new thing is apparently "Grounded Cognition" - Barsalou's very interesting paper works off Damasio to some extent:

    http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~ajyu/Teaching/Cogs202_sp12/Readings/barsalou08_grounded.pdf
  • Daniel Miller · Vanderbilt University
    The general topography of the mammalian brain is relatively well known - at least insofar as the primary sense regions are concerned (vision, hearing, smell, touch...), see the following papers for a review of cortical areas

    PMID: 22230624 and 21691044

    If you feel that new research is finding new areas that have functions which do not conform to your previous understanding of those brain regions, do not worry - others (like myself) feel that way sometimes as well. Truth is that we are not so very developed in terms of our understanding of the particular things that different areas of the brain do. I find that this problem of multiple functions being attributed to discrete brain regions is particularly problematic in work on the human brain, using for example MRI or fMRI (which unfortunately have some difficulties with regard to the spatial resolution they can provide). But to be fair across the board, this is an incredibly difficult problem. For example, the more we study the inferior colliculus (part of the brainstem that does many auditory-related things), the more we find that it is involved in a very wide variety of functions. We have a lot of data concerning the particular functions of discrete sets of neurons, but in order to make robust and reasonable inferences regarding the function of particular systems (i.e. collections of neurons connected together), we need lots of information about each individual part - and that is very difficult to produce. It is made worse by the fact that many times a scientist is precluded from doing an experiment for practical or technical reasons, and so our understanding of brain function is largely limited to what our technology can tell us - and that is far from being perfect.

    As a final note, when it comes to the cerebral cortex, it is a laminated structure (i.e. neurons are arranged in sheets laid on top of one another like paper in a stack), and each of these layers is a set of neurons with discrete functions and connections, so in reality, if you see a paper that says some cortical region "does" many different things, keep in mind that they are really saying something about more than one set of neurons - one chunk of cortex is not a homogeneous structure.
  • Raquel Gil-Gouveia · Hospital da Luz
    Better still - WHY do the brain pathways CROSS to the body ?

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