How does the brain process information?

Many questions about the brain continue to intrigue neuroscientists today. How does this body develop? Are there stages of brain development? Are there critical times when certain events must occur for the brain to develop normally? And, perhaps more importantly, how does the brain process information?

Throughout this article we will try to understand the latter: how our brain processes the information it receives from the outside, And how it stores and retrieves this information; but first, we’ll cover some basics that will help us better understand how this wonderful and complex organ works.

    Some basic concepts

    To understand how our brain is able to process the information it receives from its environment, we must first know how it works inside. Nerve cells or neurons are those that receive information from other nerve cells or sensory organs. These neurons are equipped with a cell body, a kind of metabolic heart, and a huge tree-like structure called the dendritic field, which is the input side of the neuron.

    Information reaches the cell from projections called axons. Most of the exciting information reaches the cell from the dendritic field, often through small dendritic projections called spines. The junctions through which information passes from one neuron to another are called synapses, which can be either excitatory or inhibitory in nature.

    Synaptic connections are added to the brain in several ways; the first is the overproduction of synapses and subsequent selective loss. Overproduction and loss of synapses is a fundamental mechanism the brain uses to incorporate information from experience, and tends to occur during the early stages of development.

    For example, in the visual cortex, the area of ​​the cerebral cortex of the brain that controls sight, a person has many more synapses at 6 months than in adulthood. In fact, more and more synapses are formed in the first months of life, then disappear, sometimes in large numbers. The time it takes for this phenomenon to follow its evolution varies in different parts of the brain, from 2 to 3 years in the human visual cortex to 8 to 10 years in some parts of the frontal cortex.

    The nervous system makes many connections; the experience is replicated on this network, selecting the appropriate connections and removing the inappropriate ones. What remains is a refined final form that forms the sensory and possibly cognitive basis for later stages of development. The second method of synapse formation is to add new synapses.

    Unlike the overproduction and loss of synapses, this process of adding synapses works throughout human life and is especially important later in life. This process is not only sensitive to experience, but is actually driven by it. The addition of synapses is probably the basis of some, if not most, forms of memory.. But before storing and processing information, the brain must encode and filter it. Let’s see how.

      How does the brain process information?

      Information processing begins with the input of sensory organs, Which transform physical stimuli such as touch, heat, sound waves or light photons into electrochemical signals. Sensory information is repeatedly transformed by brain algorithms in ascending and descending processing.

      For example, when you look at an image of a black box on a white background, outward processing gathers very simple information such as the color, orientation, and location of the edges of the object, where the color changes in a way. meaningful in a short space (to decide you are looking at a box). Top-down processing uses decisions made at certain stages of the bottom-up process to speed up object recognition.

      Once the information is processed to a certain extent, an attention filter decides the importance of the signal and the cognitive processes that should be available. For example, although the brain processes every blade of grass when you look at your shoes, a specific attention filter prevents you from rating them individually. On the contrary, your brain is able to perceive and hear your name even when you are in a noisy room.

      There are many stages of treatment and the results of treatment are modulated by attention repeatedly. However, for the brain to process information, it must first be stored. Let’s see how he does it.

      Information storage

      In order for the brain to process information, it must first be stored. There are several types of memory, including sensory and short-term memory, working memory, and long-term memory. First, the information must be encoded, and there are different types of encoding specific to different types of sensory stimuli.

      For example, verbal input can be structurally encoded, referring to the appearance of the printed word; phonologically, referring to the way the word sounds; or semantically, referring to what the word means. Once the information is stored, it should be retained. Some animal studies suggest that working memory, which stores information for about 20 seconds, is maintained by an electrical signal that passes through a particular series of neurons for a short period of time.

      Regarding long-term memory, it has been suggested that the information that manages to consolidate in this store remains in the structure of certain types of proteins. With all, there are many models of knowledge organization in the brainSome based on how human subjects retrieve their memories, others based on computer science and computing, and others based on neurophysiology.

      The semantic network model, for example, indicates that there are nodes that represent concepts and that these nodes are related based on their relationship. For example, in a semantic network, the word “chair” can be related to “table”, which can be related to “wood”, and so on. Another model is the connectionist, who states that an element of knowledge is represented simply by a model of neural activation rather than a meaning.

      There is still no universally accepted knowledge organization modelBecause each has its strengths and weaknesses, more research is needed in this regard.

        Information retrieval

        Once stored, memories may need to be retrieved from memory. Remembering past events is not like watching a video recording. In fact, it has more to do with a rebuilding process than it could have happened based on the details the brain chooses to store and remember.

        The search for information is triggered by a signal, an environmental stimulus which prompts the brain to retrieve the memory in question. Evidence shows that the better the recovery signal, the more likely it is to remember something. It is important to note that the recovery signal can also cause a person to reconstruct memory incorrectly.

        Distortions in memory can occur in a variety of ways, including changing the wording of a question. For example, simply asking someone if a black car left the scene of a crime may make them remember seeing a black car during subsequent questioning. This has been consistently observed in studies with trial witnesses, in which we have seen how easy it is to manipulate and implant false memories.

        Studies in this area also indicate that the mind is not only a passive recorder of events, But is actively working both to store and retrieve information. There is research that shows that when a series of events occur in a random sequence, people rearrange them into sequences that make sense when they try to remember them.

        Recovering memory therefore requires reviewing the nervous pathways of the brain. which can be recovered. This recovery it efficiently returns a memory located in the long-term warehouse to short-term or working memory, Where it can be re-accessed, in a kind of mirror image of the encoding process.

        After all, memory is re-recorded into long-term memory, which consolidates and strengthens it. In short, our memory system is as complex as it is efficient, although there is still a lot to study.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Anderson, JA and Hinton, GE (2014). Models of information processing in the brain. In Parallel Models of Associative Memory (pp. 33-74). Psychology Press.
        • Cabrera Cortés, IA (2003). The humane treatment of information: in search of an explanation. acimous, 11 (6).
        • Insel, TR and Fernald, RD (2004). How the brain processes social information: in search of the social brain. Annu. Tower. Neurosci., 27, 697-722.
        • Sakurai, Y. (1999). How do they encode information in the brain of sets of cells? Journals of Neuroscience and Biological Behavior, 23 (6), 785-796.

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