Here’s Why Most Neuroscientists Are Wrong About the Brain – Facts So Romantic

Most neuroscientists believe that the brain learns by rewiring itself—by changing the strength of connections between brain cells, or neurons. But experimental results published last year, from a lab at Lund University in Sweden, hint that we need to change our approach. They suggest the brain learns in a way more analogous to that of a computer: It encodes information into molecules inside neurons and reads out that information for use in computational operations.

Gary Waters/Getty Images

With a computer scientist, Adam King, I co-authored a book, Memory and the Computational Brain: Why Cognitive Science Will Transform Neuroscience. We argued that well-established results in cognitive science and computer science imply that computation in the brain must resemble computation in a computer in just this way. So, of course, I am fascinated by these results.

A computer does not learn by rewiring itself; it learns by encoding facts into sequences of ‘0s’ and ‘1s’ called bit strings, which it stores in addressable registers. Registers are strings of tiny switches. When a switch is set one way, it physically represents ‘1’; when set the other way, it physically represents ‘0’. The registers in a computer’s memory are numbered, and the numbers…

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