Tuesday, January 29, 2008

To sleep, perchance to run lossy compression algorithms

Another NYT article on theories about why humans sleep:
Sleep - Brain - Neurons - New York Times:

...So Dr. Tononi and a colleague, Chiara Cirelli, have hypothesized that during sleep, the synapses weaken. The downscaling is across the board, so that the synapses’ relative strength is maintained. Those that have been used (those involved in learning) stay stronger than those that haven’t....
Both autism and schizophrenia have, at various times, been connected with disorders of pruning neuronal networks. (Errors both ways -- too much and too little.)

Neural gardening is hard to get right, and, in fact, there can't be a "right" answer. The "right" answer will depend on environment, which is fungible.

I do wonder sometimes if the alleged benefit of exercise for dementia prevention is entirely related to the benefit exercise has for sleeping.

Incidentally, my recollection is that this original theory was found to be too simplistic. I recall that studies published @ 2011 showed that what's occuring in sleep is a refactoring of memories into a compressed formthat sacrifices accuracy for retrieval speed and lesser storage demands. I think the researchers found a curious correspondence to lossy fractal-based compression algorithms used in early 21st century computing ... [1]

[1] Sorry, sometimes it's hard for me to forget I'm not supposed to remember the future. I think I need more sleep.


alanbooker said...

I could use that skill. In fact we probably shouldn’t count that out, Nostradarmus could, why not you!

As much as we move into an ever increasing technological age, the want to compare the brain with technological analogies is a mistake!

I understand the temptation but in truth, nowhere near. Alan

John Gordon said...

Hey, I thought the telegraph was a pretty good analogy for its time!

I know what you mean, but it is true that most scientific advances (real advances, not my playful speculation) is based on analogies which come from our environment -- technological or natural.

Then we falsify the analogy and find another one, but they do have their place ...