The brain’s ability to perceive space evolves as the universe evolves

Young children sometimes think that the moon follows them or that they can reach out and touch it. It appears to be much closer than it is in proportion to the actual distance. As we move about in our daily lives, we tend to think of ourselves as navigating through space in a linear fashion. But the Salk scientists found that time spent exploring the environment causes a sudden growth in neural representations.

Results published in Natural neuroscience On December 29, 2022, he showed that hippocampal neurons essential for spatial navigation, memory, and planning represent space in a way consistent with nonlinear hyperbolic geometry—a three-dimensional extension that grows exponentially. (In other words, it’s shaped like an expanding hourglass.) The researchers also found that the size of this space increases with time spent in one place. The volume increases in a logarithmic manner corresponding to the maximum possible increase in the information being processed by the brain.

This discovery provides valuable avenues for analyzing data related to neurocognitive disorders involving learning and memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Our study shows that the brain does not always function in a linear fashion. Instead, neural networks operate along an expanding curve, which can be analyzed and understood using hyperbolic geometry and information theory,” says Salk Professor Tatiana Sharpe, Edwin K. Hunter Chairholder, who led the study. “It is exciting to see that neural responses in this region From the brain formed a map that expanded with experience with the time spent in a particular place. The effect was maintained even for small deviations in time as the animal ran slower or faster. through the environment. »

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Sharpee’s lab uses advanced computational approaches to better understand how the brain works. They have recently pioneered the use of hyperbolic geometry to better understand biological signals such as olfactory molecules, as well as odor perception.

In the current study, the scientists found that the hyperbolic geometry also directs neural responses. Hyperbolic maps of sensory molecules and events are viewed through hyperbolic neural maps. Spatial representations developed dynamically in association with the time the rat spent exploring each environment. And as the rat moves slower in the environment, it gains more information about space, which increases neural representations.

“The results provide a new perspective on how neural representations can change through experience,” says Huanqiu Zhang, a graduate student in Sharpee’s lab. “The engineering principles identified in our study may also guide future efforts in understanding neural activity in different brain systems.”

“You might think that hyperbolic geometry only applies on a cosmic scale, but that’s not true,” says Sharpe. “Our brains operate much slower than the speed of light, which may be one reason why deterministic effects are observed in graspable spaces rather than astronomical ones.” Next, we would like to learn more about how these dynamic hyperbolic representations evolved in the brain, interacted and communicated with each other. »

Other authors include B. Dylan Rich of Princeton University and Albert K. Lee is from the Janelia Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The research was supported by the AHA-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment jointly presented by the American Heart Association and the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group (19PABH134610000), the Dorsett Brown Foundation, the Mary K. Chapman Foundation, the Aginsky Fellowship and the National Science Foundation (IIS). -1724421), the National Science Foundation’s Next Generation Networks for Neurosciences Program (Award 2014217), the National Institutes of Health (U19NS112959 and P30AG068635), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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