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The Associative Network in the Mouse Cortex


Braitenberg,  V
Former Department Structure and Function of Natural Nerve-Net, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Braitenberg, V. (1984). The Associative Network in the Mouse Cortex. Poster presented at Symposium Association Systems of the Brain, Leningrad, Soviet Union.

Peculiarly, at the same time as modern psychologists are becoming more and more cognitive, modern views of the cortex seem to turn away from the global aspects of cortical function in favour of a description in terms of columns and modules, functional units much finer even than the areas and subareas of the old architectonic school. We are faced with the question of what holds the modules together when a global thought is organized in the brain, or even a multisensory perception. Fortunately, we are not compelled to take the extreme view that would relegate the integrative action to extracortical structures, with the cortex itself as a passive, compartmentalized reference file. There are enough synapses in the cortex (1011 in the mouse, 1014 in man) which can hardly serve any other purpose that that of dynamic interaction of elementary or complex percepts. How many of these synapses are between neurons within a “module,” how many of them link neighbouring modules and how many link modules far apart? These are questions to which our statistical considerations of cortical structure are addressed. The synapses between cortical neurons vastly outnumber the synapses between afferent fibers and cortical neurons. Most of these synapses are between pyramidal cells and are probably excitatory. Synapses between neighbours are probably not more numerous than those between distant elements. The influence of a single pyramidal cell onto another is probably very slight, so that strong effects must be mediated by groups of active neurons. All of this points to the cortex as the place where “cell assemblies” in the sense of Hebb are organized.