Neuroscientists have made use of a classic branch of math’s in a brand new way so that they can see into the structure of the brains of humans.
What they found is the brain is packed with multi-dimensional geometrical structures that operate in up to 11 dimensions.
People generally think about the world in a 3D perspective and so this does sound tricky.
However, the results of the study may be the next big step in being able to understand the human brain, which is the most complex of structures that is known.
The researchers produced the latest brain model from the Blue Brain Project; a Swiss research initiative was devoted to making a reconstruction of the brain of a human using a supercomputer.
The team made use of algebraic topology, which is a type of mathematics that describes properties of objects along with spaces regardless of the change in shape.
They found out that neurons in groups connect into groups and the number of neurons in the group leads to the size of a geometric object that is high-dimensional.
RESEARCHERS DISCOVERED A WORLD THEY NEVER IMAGINED IN HUMAN BRAINS
The lead researcher Henry Markram at the EPFL institute in Switzerland said that they had discovered a world that they never imagined.
He went on to say that there were tens of millions objects in only a small speck of the human brain, up through as many as 7 dimensions.
In some of the networks, they even found 11 dimensions.
The human brain is said to have around 86 billion neurons and there are multiple connections from each of the webbing of the cells, which go in every direction possible and then form what becomes a huge cellular network that makes people capable of consciousness and thought.
As there is such a big number of connections for the researchers to work with it is not surprising that the researchers do not have a good understanding of how the neural network of the brain operates.
However, the new framework based on mathematics, which the team built, takes a step even closer to the scientists one day having a digital brain model.
NEOCORTEX IS THE MOST EVOLVED PART OF HUMAN BRAIN
To be able to perform the mathematical tests, the researchers made use of a detailed model of the neocortex, which the Blue Brain Project team went ahead and published in 2015.
The neocortex is said to be one of the most evolved parts of the human brain and it is one that is involved in the higher-order functions such as sensory perception and cognition perception.
Following the development of the mathematical framework along with the testing of it using virtual stimuli, the researchers were able to confirm the results of testing on the brain tissue of rats.
The researchers said that the algebraic topology is able to provide mathematical tools for finding details about the neural network in the close-up view in individual neurons and at a much bigger scale of the brain as a whole.
When the two levels are connected it led to the researchers finding high-dimensional structures that were geometric in the brain, which had been formed by a collection of neurons that were tightly connected, along with having empty spaces between them.
The teams said in the study that they found a large number, along with a variety of high-dimensional directed groups and cavities, which had not been seen in the networks before, either artificially or biologically.
Katheryn Hess, a mathematician from EPFL, said that algebraic topology is similar to a microscope and telescope at the same time as it can zoom into the networks and find out structures that are hidden.
She said that they were able to see the trees in the forest, the clearings and spaces that were empty, all at the same time.
The clearings and cavities are said to be critically important for the function of the brain.
The researchers stimulated virtual brain tissue and saw that the neurons reacted to it in a very organized manner.
The findings of the researchers have shown a new picture of how the brain can process information and it is tantalizing.
However, researchers have said that at the moment it is not clear just what makes the groups and cavities form in the specific ways that they do.
Researchers have said that more work is needed if they are to determine just how complex the multi-dimensional geometric shapes are formed by the neurons and how they correlate with the complexity of the various cognitive tasks.
The study was published in Frontiers of Computational Neuroscience.