A piece of our heart


October/November 1976

From “Pharmacology and the Brain”: Since ancient times, drugs have been used to restore mental health or explore the mind. It is said that on the way back to Troy, Doctor Homer, Polydama, presented Menelaus and Helen with “a medicine to fight grief and anger, a medicine to survive in despair.” The number of puzzling drugs available today is countless. Some have changed the process of medical practice; others have changed the structure of our society. Many drugs have greater specificity of action and fewer side effects than ever before. The development of such drugs parallels our increased understanding of how drugs work at the molecular level to change behavior. In this regard, one of the most fruitful research methods involves studying how nerve cells communicate with other cells in the body, and how various drugs change this communication.

May/June 1987

From “Designing Computers That Think Our Way”: Neuroscientists have realized that the structure of the brain is at the core of its function. Individual neurons are not smart by themselves, but when they are connected to each other, they become very smart. The problem is that no one knows how they did it. Neurons are not very fast: When sending electrochemical information to other neurons, they are 100,000 times slower than a typical computer switch. But the lack of speed in our brains, they make up for in what is sometimes called “wetware”. The brain contains 10 billion to 1 trillion neurons, and each neuron may be connected to 1,000 to 100,000 other neurons. If this huge network of interconnected neurons forms a huge collective conspiracy we call thoughts, perhaps a huge interconnected network of mechanical switches can create thinking machines.

July/August 2014


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