How Do We Provide Meaning to Our Environment? Trying to Crack the Neural Code of the Brain

The brain is the most complex organ in our body – constantly absorbing and interpreting our surroundings, and guiding our movement, thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Although human beings share a fundamental understanding of our surrounding environment (i.e. ice is cold, fire is hot, knives are sharp) – each of us develops a unique interpretation of the information we process. For example, two people can have very different reactions after tasting the exact same meal, hearing the same sound, or leaving a shared social interaction. Jerry Chen, PhD, a Boston University College of Arts & Sciences Assistant Professor of Biology, researches the neural code of the brain. He aims to better understand the relationship between the genetic and electrical influences that control cognitive functions like sensory processing, decision-making, and learning and memory. “In order to crack the neural code,” explains Dr. Chen, “you need to know at least two things. First, you need to be able to measure the activity of neurons in the brain as a subject is carrying out different cognitive tasks. And second, you have to know the identity of those neurons which we can learn about through the genes they express.”
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