The brain is a network of neurons that talk to one another. These networks, or circuits, can be anywhere from thousands to millions of neurons! When broken down into smaller networks, scientists believe these systems are dedicated to certain mental functions. If we want to understand how those work we need to map the brain!
The Brain tells our legs to move when we walk and keeps track of our position in space so we don’t get lost
It senses that our stomach is empty and signals that we’re hungry
EVEN Enabling us to ponder the meaning of life
When it comes down to it, all thoughts and feelings emerge from neuronal connections.
Neuroscientists have made great strides in seeing circuits of neurons talking. Alas, we often don't know which neurons are talking to whom. And that makes it impossible to know precisely how a group of neurons coordinates to produce mental functions.
There are research projects that aim to record the signals from a bunch of neurons, then to map the connections to see which neurons are signalling each other. The field is known as connectomics, and the largest of these projects is the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) program.
One way to look at it is that neurons are like transistors, the basic on/off switches on a computer chip, and this project is like trying to record when each of the transistors is active, then mapping the connections between transistors.
In the same way that we design circuits of transistors to implement simple, computational elements, like counters, clocks, and memory units, maybe we can discover the same low-level circuits of the brain! And we can go beyond that…
Those low-level circuits can be grouped together to perform ever more complex functions. Grouping those circuits together is done using a programming language. Is it possible that we could discover a programming language to the brain?
That opens lots of interesting questions…
How will knowing the programming language help humans with mental disorders?
Will it help us debug, reprogram, or write new programs in our networks of neurons?
Can we try and port that neural programming language into our silicon computers to help advance artificial intelligence even more?