The answer to that question could come as soon as 2020, when researchers at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London report that the brain is composed almost entirely of neurons.
While that is still quite a way off, this study suggests that our brains are much more interconnected than we previously thought.
The brain is a “network,” according to the Oxford team.
“The network is comprised of all of the neurons in a brain, not just those that are active at a specific time, or that are activated at a particular time,” says team member Andrew W. Miller, who worked on the project with researchers from the University College London.
Brain neurons can also move in different directions and form different kinds of connections, all of which can change how the brain functions.
This new research was inspired by a different approach to studying how the brains of animals operate.
In 2013, researchers at Duke University discovered that the brains and bodies of mice and rats contain distinct networks that can be manipulated to function differently.
Miller and his colleagues then designed an experiment to investigate how this network might work in humans.
In the study, they placed rats in a lab, and placed them in a room that had been fitted with a camera and a light that were both synchronized to the rats’ brains.
As in the earlier experiment, the scientists measured the brain activity of the animals in the laboratory, and then compared it to that of the rats in the control room.
The researchers found that the activity of neurons in the brain, which represent the activity levels of neurons, correlated with the levels of light in the room.
This suggested that the animals’ brains, which were connected via neurons, were responding to light that had a different spectral frequency than the light in their brains.
The scientists then used computer simulations to show that the different spectral frequencies of the light affected the activity in different parts of the brain.
To their surprise, they found that light with higher spectral frequencies increased the activity level of neurons as well as the level of light coming into the brain from outside.
But this did not happen when the animals were deprived of light.
Instead, the animals responded to higher spectral levels of the same light in different places.
The researchers concluded that the neural activity in the animals was not only influenced by the spectral frequency of the illumination but also by the intensity of that light.
This indicates that the neurons were responding not just to a higher frequency of light but also to a larger range of spectral frequencies.
What this means is that our neurons are more interconnected and more diverse than previously thought, says Miller.
Although it’s still quite far away, the Oxford researchers now hope to expand their study to humans, so they can study how these differences in the activity patterns of neurons and other parts of our brains influence our perception and behaviour.
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