Neuroscientists at MIT have conducted the most rigorous testing of a computational model that mimics visual cortex of the brain. By using their present best prototype of the brain’s visual neural system, the scientists designed an innovative way to exactly control individual neurons and populaces of neurons between those networks. In an animal study, the research group showed that the data gained from the computational model allowed them to form images that strongly triggered definite brain neurons of their choosing. The results suggest that the present versions of these replicas are similar to the brain that they can use to control brain states in animals.

The study also aids in establishing the helpfulness of these vision replicas, which have produced vigorous debate on whether they precisely mimic how the visual cortex functions, states James DiCarlo, Head of Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He added, “People have questioned if these replicas offer an understanding of the visual network. Rather than dispute that in an intellectual sense, we showed that these replicas are already powerful to facilitate a significant new application. Whether there is understanding how the model functions or not, it is already helpful in that sense.” The study was published in the journal Science.

On a similar note, recently, neuroscientists reversed some of the behavioral symptoms for Williams syndrome. Williams Syndrome—a unique neuro-developmental disorder that impacts around 1 in 10,000 babies born in the U.S.—has a range of symptoms counting cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairments, and hyper sociability (extreme friendliness). In research of mice, MIT scientists have garnered new prospects into the molecular mechanisms that motivate this hyper sociability. They discovered that loss of one of the genes associated with Williams Syndrome causes a thinning of the fatty layer that protects neurons and aids them in conducting electrical signals in the brain.