A typical neuron receives input from some 10,000 other neurons.
We do know that some spikes – called all-or-nothing spikes by Baylor University brain science raconteur Prof. David Eagleman – appear to carry information about the world: What do I see? Am I hungry? Which way should I turn? In the central nervous system, the rate of spiking often correlates with clearly definable external features, like the presence of a color or a face. In the peripheral nervous system, spikes indicate more heat, a louder sound or a stronger muscle contraction.
We also know that spikes are not the only information carriers. Cell-to-cell signaling mechanisms such as gases and peptides are recent discoveries just now being investigated; and signaling cascades – a series of chemical reactions in which the products of one reaction are consumed in the next reaction – are opening all sorts of new doors.
Recent TAU breakthroughs show that glial cells, which are 10 times more common than neurons, serve as the brain’s traffic lights, controlling the transfer of information between neurons. We also know that there are populations of neurons involved in reminiscence, value judgments, simulation of possible futures and the desire for a mate, but these signals are a lot harder to decrypt. Eagleman: The challenge is something like popping the cover off a computer, measuring a few transistors chattering between high and low voltage, and trying to guess the content of the Web page being surfed.
Tel Aviv University is a world leader in the study of brain science and neurodegenerative disease, with 23 drugs and medical treatments in the pipeline. TAU is No. 29 in the world for the number of patents filed among academic institution. New technologies coming out of the university have generated 65 start-ups and 198 licenses. More than 80 scientists and 17 affiliated medical centers are working in concert with elite academic institutions around the world to encourage and support multidisciplinary research teams in Life Sciences, Medicine, Social Sciences, Exact Sciences, Humanities, Management and Engineering. The goal: Unique discovery, effective application.