Mice categorize human-like sensory information and represent it as a summary of the same brain area that humans use for complex thinking. Like us, they can be wrong.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology have found that mice are complex thinkers and have observed how they represent abstract information at the neural level.
The human brain is perfectly organized to process the information coming from our senses: it shapes our perception through schemes and categories.
In this way, it handles the information we receive and gives representations or interpretations of reality like a chair.
If we are small, when we first see a chair, our brain stores the experience and summarizes its features and creates a section called “chair”: this will allow us to identify the back of the furniture in any situation.
Simplifying the world
In this way, our brain can organize our world in a simple way so that we can function naturally in any environment.
The brain classification of each of the objects of our experience is essential to everyday life, but we are not well aware of the neural processes that make this cognitive achievement possible.
We do not know them because it is difficult to observe how the human brain is classified, so scientists have tried to see how it works in mice.
Their brains categorize the information they receive from the environment and recognize the neural processes involved, an indication of how our brain simplifies the world for us.
The first thing they did was show the rats different pictures of the stripe patterns and give them a ruler to sort them out.
The mice were categorized into two different groups, some with thickness and some with orientation.
Was The first surprise: Mice have studied the laws of human learning and have been able to classify and apply them to images.
Second SurpriseThe researchers changed the classification rules, and the mice soon learned it and rearranged the images according to the new law.
Research shows that mice have not only changed the laws of the environment in the same way that we do, but also changed taxonomic laws, just as the human brain constantly does.
Inside the brain
Once this was known, the next thing, now, was to discover the brain processes involved in the classification of information that reaches the brain.
Third Surprise: Mice are classified with the prefrontal cortex, the same area of the brain that we use to develop complex thought processes.
The researchers observed that some neurons in the cortex were activated when mice classified striped patterns to adjust the perceived images.
What’s more, different groups of neurons respond according to the selected category. This means that neurons do not gain their selectivity immediately, but gradually develop it during the learning process, explained one of the researchers, Tobias Bonhofer. Release.
Fourth Surprise: Mice reveal to us that the file of information we use to classify sensory information is not always reliable.
Before reaching the cortex, the researchers found that perceptual information undergoes a transformation: short-term memory of experience is transformed by the brain into long-term memory.
However, when the cortex intervenes to classify that information, it stores it as semantic memory, that is, general information about everything it wants.
This means that the information that the brain manages to create categories is very common: it may not always reflect reality. This is why we sometimes doubt what an object or animal really is: the reference file does not have much graphic resolution.
Y Fifth Surprise: Rats not only revealed to us the neural basis of abstract thinking, they also showed us that they are rats Complex thoughts They are not unique to our species.
The mouse represents the learned rules for classifying the prefrontal cortex. Sandra Rainert et al. Nature (2021). DOI: https: //doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03452-z
Photo above: Mice create mental sections to simplify the world using sections that specialize in encoding neurons. © MPI Neurobiology / Kuhl.
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