TechUnique to humans. Multiple parallel brain paths enable abstract thinking. Swiss study reveals

Unique to humans. Multiple parallel brain paths enable abstract thinking. Swiss study reveals

X-ray of the human brain.
X-ray of the human brain.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | merydolla

11:28 AM EST, January 20, 2024

Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, suggest that signals in the brain travel from their origin to their destination, passing through many synapses, or neurological connections, along the way. They compare this journey to a road with multiple stops.

The capabilities of the human brain continue to fascinate researchers

In a study published in the journal "Nature Communications", the Swiss researchers used various methods based on magnetic resonance imaging to examine the routes that information takes in the brains of humans, mice, and macaques. Their experiments were conducted during both waking and sleeping states.

"What sets our study apart is the combination of data obtained from different methods into a single model. This model unifies two branches of mathematics - graph theory, which describes multi-synaptic routes, and information theory, which addresses the transmission of data along these routes. The principle is that the information travelling from source to destination remains unchanged or degrades at each stop, much like in the game of telephone," explains Dr. Alessandra Griffa, the study's author.

The study's findings reveal that, unlike the brains of other creatures, the human brain transmits information along multiple parallel routes. Remarkably, these pathways are unique for each individual, akin to fingerprints.

"Parallel transmission of information in the human brain has previously been hypothesized, but this is the first study to observe it in the context of the entire brain," says Dr. Griffa.

This groundbreaking discovery could have far-reaching implications. Firstly, it could shed light on many questions about the evolution of the human brain and its exceptional abilities.

"We believe that these parallel paths facilitate the creation of diverse representations of reality, enabling the unique human capability of abstract thinking," emphasizes Dr. Griffa.

Dr. Griffa expresses a specific interest in how the unique operation of the human brain contributes to its resilience against damage. Insights into this subject could someday inform rehabilitation methods or strategies to counter cognitive decline with age.

"Some individuals age healthily, while others experience a deterioration of their intellectual abilities. We aim to investigate if there are differences in parallel information transmission among individuals and whether a specific person can be effectively trained to counterbalance neurodegenerative processes," says the researcher.

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