Brain teaser: Physical Principles for Scalable Neural Recording

See on Scoop.itBiobit: Computational Neuroscience & Biocomputation

Nima Dehghani‘s insight:

Here are some excerpts text from Mark Buchanan’s editorial in Nature Physics on the paper by bunch of friends.

(The origianl paper (arXiv) can be found here:


"…. Our ability to monitor and record these detailed dynamics remains limited. Although the technology for recording neural activity with wire electrodes has advanced consistently for decades — doubling in resolution every seven years since the 1950s — we can still only observe the dynamics of at most a few hundred neurons on timescales fast enough (milliseconds) to capture their core behaviour. Optical microscopy can get readings on something like 100,000 neurons, but only every second or so. Magnetic resonance imaging allows non-invasive whole-brain recordings on a one-second timescale, but doesn’t come close to resolving the activity of single neurons….

…. physicist Adam Marblestone and colleagues have recently tried to look at how some of the current trends in technology might play out in the future (preprint at; 2013). One conclusion: recording from every neuron isn’t as out of reach as you might think.

Any suitable brain-imaging technology must avoid interference with normal function, both in terms of the power that can be dissipated within the brain, and the alteration of the physical tissue through direct influence. Both limits restrict the scope for traditional electrode technologies, even with the development of ever thinner wires and smaller electrode impedances. Hence, the biggest advances will probably come from radically different technologies….In their article, Marblestone and colleagues quote Freeman Dyson from his book Imagined Worlds, thinking about how a future technology might place enough tiny devices into the brain to record from each and every neuron. “There is”, he noted, “no law of physics that declares such an observational tool to be impossible.” This reality might be closer than we think…."

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