Spikes and Dark Neurons | An Interview with Mark Humphries (Thinking Tools Podcast #23)Vote
Spikes are action potentials–or the firing of neurons, while dark neurons indicate how rare such events really are in the human brain. That is, when we picture a brain, we sometimes imagine it flooded with action potentials, a hundred billion neurons all activating nearly simultaneously. The reality is that there are far fewer neurons active at any given time. Dr. Mark Humphries, author of the 2021 book, “The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.1 Seconds,” has dubbed this phenomenon “the dark neuron problem.”
In this episode of the Thinking Tools Podcast, I speak with Dr. Humphries about this and a few other ideas from “The Spike.”
Mark Humphries is a computational neuroscientist and writer. His lab at the University of Nottingham, UK, researches how groups of neurons collectively encode information about the past, present, or future, in order to guide behaviour. He writes about systems neuroscience for a broad audience at Medium (https://drmdhumphries.medium.com).
Find Mark on Twitter @markdhumphries (https://twitter.com/markdhumphries).
00:00 Spikes are action potentials, dark neurons reveal how rare they really are.
00:40 Dr. Mark Humphries’ credentials
01:33 What is computational neuroscience?
02:41 Mark Humphries’ background
04:50 The Spike by Mark Humphries overview
07:12 The Dark Neuron Problem (Mark Humphries explains)
19:15 The 10 percent of the brain myth
20:41 Functional MRI (What is it good for? Mark Humphries explains)
26:48 Type 2 Dark Neurons (Mark Humphries explains)
37:45 How the brain works (quick answer)
41:05 What does the cerebral cortex do?
47:16 New ways to record neurons inside the brain
47:52 Neuropixel probes
49:51 Optical voltage imaging
54:36 Neuroscience book recommendation: “The Idea of the Brain”
56:55 Writing science for a general audience: accessibility, accuracy, and entertainment
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About Sense of Mind
My goal: Give you an accurate and clear picture of how the brain and mind work at various levels of analysis. I do that by carefully reading and reporting the science as I understand it.