May 03, 2007
Noise Degrades Messages In Brain

Ever find a thought somehow gets lost in the noise? Our neurons suffer from noise effects when transmitting data.

Addressing a current issue in neuroscience, Aldo Faisal and Simon Laughlin from Cambridge University investigate the reliability of thin axons for transmitting information. They show that noise effects in ion channels in the brain are much larger than previously assumed meaning the fidelity of transmission is compromised.

Neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain can have a wiring density of up to 4km per mm3 by using incredibly thin axons as wires, with an average diameter of 0.3 micrometers (1m is one millionth of a meter). Although, as in computer chips, this miniaturization economizes on space and energy, it increases the noise introduced by thermodynamic fluctuations in a neuron's voltage-gated ion channels. Axons use action potential (AP) to transmit information fast and reliably to synapses, but the reliability of transmissions down fibers of less than 0.5 m in diameter was unknown until this paper.

The human brain is a pretty flawed instrument. Those who claim that human bodies must be the product of an intelligent designer obviously aren't looking at the human body from an engineering perspective. The deficiencies of the structure and function of the human body seem obvious though.

Looking forward a future generation of transhumans will gain many advantages over humans. Those advantages will come from intelligent design done by humans to improve our brains with better designs of brain components.

You can read the full article.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 May 03 10:54 PM  Brain Performance

Rob said at May 4, 2007 7:14 AM:

I wonder if higher IQ people lose fewer signals. It would explain a great bit about IQ.

James Bowery said at May 5, 2007 10:34 AM:

A rhetorical question and then a deadly serious question about transhumanism:

1) At what point in the "evolution" of transhumans will it become rational to speak of "intelligent design" having shaped transhumans?

2) Since you are on record as opposing speciation due to the tendency of species to exploit each other, do you foresee the moral equivalent happening with transhumanist positive feedback as people make different choices about modifications to their children?

Randall Parker said at May 5, 2007 11:58 AM:


I think growing splits between portions of the human and transhuman race are inevitable. What I want to know: What forms will those splits take? I expect genetically code differences in values to become especially problematic. When people instinctively know what is morally right and wrong and they come to deeply conflicting conclusions on moral questions then we'll see the sparks fly.

Stuart Hameroff said at December 28, 2008 10:55 PM:

How do you know its noise? In fact, so-called noise in the brain is actually correlated, and enhances perception and performance.

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