Your brain’s cells communicate with one another throughout the day using electrical and chemical signals. When you taste your meal, feel the heat from a stove, or read the words on this page, these messages help you move your muscles and activate your senses.
The brain-body connection would become clearer to us if we had a greater understanding of how those messages are transmitted and received. We could also learn what happens when those connections break down, as they do in conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
To that goal, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have created the most intricate computer simulations of individual brain cells to date. The models, which are presented in the journal Cell Reports, use high-performance computation and artificial intelligence, or AI, to capture the shape, timing, and speed of the electrical signals that brain cells known as neurons fire.
The new study is a component of a decades-long effort by scientists to comprehend the inner workings of the brain on a biological, genetic, and electrical level in addition to cognitively.
The most well-known early scientists were John Carew Eccles, Andrew Fielding Huxley, and Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, who jointly won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their studies on the membranes of nerve cells.
According to study author Costas Anastassiou, PhD, a research scientist in the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, “this is a unique period when comprehensive, single-neuron data sets are available in enormous quantities and for many cells.” “We can examine [detailed] systems at a single-cell level – for every cell” because to the size and speed of modern computers.
How Can You Computer-Model Brain Cell Activity?
It turns out that computer code can mimic the electrical pulses that neurons use to communicate.
We used mathematical calculations to reproduce the distinctive voltage waveforms and time trajectories of these pulses, explains Anastassiou. Then, utilising data sets from mouse experimentation, they created computer models.
The size, shape, and structure of the cells, as well as how they react to changes, are all measured in these tests. Each cell model incorporates all these components and may show how they relate to one another.
The cellular composition (the components of brain cells) and the patterns seen during brain activity can be reconciled using computer models. Links between the data sets are made clear with the aid of the computer. According to the researchers, this could help open the door to learning what precisely makes the brain alter, which is an important first step in understanding illnesses.
How Much Can We Learn About the Human Brain from Computers?
Testing various theories about brain illnesses that would be difficult or impossible to create through lab tests is one of the fascinating potential uses of the brain cell models. In addition, the research may reveal previously unknown facts about the brain, like how similar or dissimilar brain cells are, what links them together or divides them, and what this means in terms of a variety of characteristics.
According to Anastassiou, the simplicity of the result and the depth of their effects are what most fascinate him about the stories that computers and mathematics are telling about the brain.
Specifically for the brain, the hub of what makes us human, he says, “I have always been captivated by the challenge of how mathematical equations depict live, computing, biological cells.”