Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PLoSBiol4.e126.Fig6fNeuron.jpgIt’s easy to imagine the brain as a biological analogue of a digital computer. As our understanding of the brain advances, it’s quickly becoming clear that this is a vast oversimplification. One of the most interesting fields in neuroscience asks: how and where is information represented in our brains? Reflections of this age-old question are seen in countless articles that attempt to find the “XYZ” part of the brain, and trying to localize a particular kind of thought to one location in the cortex is still a hot topic of debate.

Answering this question has certainly resulted in some interesting findings (for example, there’s a location in the brain known as the “Fusiform Face Area“, that tends to increase its activity only when faces are shown to the individual). However, it often carries with it some very big assumptions about what kinds of answers we might find. Studies that localize certain kinds of thoughts to specific locations in the brain also tend to make an inherent assumption: that discrete organization—i.e. that a certain kind of thought is in one location and not in many—is the way we store ideas and concepts in the brain. However, recent research out of Jack Gallant‘s lab at Berkeley might suggest otherwise.
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