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What Is Computational Neuroscience?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
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Computational neuroscience is a diverse and interdisciplinary science. It combines many fields, such as cognitive science, electrical engineering, physics, and computer science into one cohesive field. Its aim is to explain a range of biological, brain, and neural system-related phenomena from a multidisciplinary standpoint. The information gained from such studies could be useful in the future of various medical fields. The overall, supreme goal of computational neuroscience is to explain the phenomenon of consciousness.

The field has several main areas of focus. One focus is the ability of the human brain to discriminate and to learn. Humans and animals have the ability not only to distinguish between various things, such as walls and trees, but also to tell the difference between very similar things, such as faces. People will still recognize the face of an old friend in a crowd, even after several years of separation. Normal as this may sound, it is an astounding feat that neuroscientists are still struggling to understand.

The behavior of neural networks is another important focus of computational neuroscience. This focus primarily utilizes the field of computer science. Scientists are seeking to understand the methods and patterns of signal transfer throughout the brain. This is essential to neural modeling, making precise models of neural interactions in the brain.

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Memory, a topic that has bewildered psychologists for decades, is integral to computational neuroscience. Neuroscientists are working to explain the changes that memories experience over time. Essentially, they want to fully explain short-term, medium-term, and long-term memory. The current study of memory largely focuses on synapses, how they change over time, and how they respond to external stimuli.

Individual neurons are a major subject of interest in computational neuroscience. Networks of neurons send signals throughout the body. Motor neurons tell parts of the body to act, while sensory neurons report to the brain about external stimuli, such as temperature.

While neurons are only single cells, they are extraordinarily complex. Scientists are beginning to see that they respond differently to different stimuli and can, indeed, adapt over time if necessary. Computational neuroscientists hope to explain these phenomena in one cohesive neural model.

The nervous system, from the brain to the tips of the toes, has escaped full explanation for ages. Consciousness, the thing that truly sets humans apart from the other organisms, is still beyond the scope of biology or psychology. Computational neuroscience combines several fields to explain these human mysteries. Eventually, the field may reach a conclusion about consciousness itself.

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