Greek researchers are one step closer to unraveling the function of the brain

One step closer to providing answers about how it works brain his investigators have come Research and Technology Foundation, which as they point out, deciphering the secrets of the brain “has been characterized as one of the most important scientific questions of the 21st century”.

Researchers are developing innovative computational tools with the aim of determining the role of dendrites, which are complex neuronal structures in the brain whose primary mission is information processing.

Her scientific team Dr. Panagiotas Poirazis, who is Director of Research at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB) of Technology and Research Foundation (ITE) presented the new software that supports research on the role of dendrites in brain function in the prestigious international scientific journal Nature Communications.

The role of dendrites in the brain

The dendrites they are branched extensions of nerve cells that morphologically resemble the branches of a tree (hence their name). Their main function is to receive the information that arrives from other neurons (in the form of electrical or chemical signals) and transmit it to the main body of the cell. For decades since their discovery, their role in information processing remained unknown due to technological limitations.

Recent studies, however, reveal that dendrites possess a multitude of mechanisms that allow them to perform complex mathematical calculations independently of the main neuron. At the same time, dendrites are equally important for the plasticity of the nervous system, i.e. its capacity brain to change and adapt to its environment. This process has a dominant role in complex processes, such as memory, learning and decision making.

The role of dendrites at the level of networks or brain regions is unexplored

“SNowadays, although we have largely understood the contribution of dendrites to the behavior of a neuron, their role at the level of networks or entire brain regions remains unexplored. A small number of studies correlate the complexity of dendrites with various cognitive markers, while dendrites are known to atrophy in aging or in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Additionally, research on Artificial Intelligence has already benefited from the use of dendritic mechanisms as a source of inspiration for the development of new improved and more efficient algorithms” scientists point out.

The team of Dr. Poirazi seeks to facilitate the work of the scientific community in understanding the role of dendrites. Their study presents a new software, which allows to integrate important dendritic mechanisms into large-scale neural network models. “This software allows even new users to develop neural models with dendrites simply and efficiently, thus minimizing their computational complexity. Such computational models help elucidate the role of dendrites in complex brain functions, while facilitating their integration into neuromorphic devices, a type of brain-inspired AI architecture.”they say in a statement.

This effort was led by Michalis Pangalos, PhD candidate of the Biology Department of the University of Crete, in collaboration with Dr. Spyros Havlis, postdoctoral researcher at IMBB, under the supervision of Dr. Poirazi.

Read on HERE the researchers’ publication

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