Rxivist logo

Rxivist combines preprints from bioRxiv with data from Twitter to help you find the papers being discussed in your field. Currently indexing 63,016 bioRxiv papers from 279,490 authors.

Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?

By Eric Jonas, Konrad P Kording

Posted 26 May 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/055624 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005268)

There is a popular belief in neuroscience that we are primarily data limited, and that producing large, multimodal, and complex datasets will, with the help of advanced data analysis algorithms, lead to fundamental insights into the way the brain processes information. These datasets do not yet exist, and if they did we would have no way of evaluating whether or not the algorithmically-generated insights were sufficient or even correct. To address this, here we take a classical microprocessor as a model organism, and use our ability to perform arbitrary experiments on it to see if popular data analysis methods from neuroscience can elucidate the way it processes information. Microprocessors are among those artificial information processing systems that are both complex and that we understand at all levels, from the overall logical flow, via logical gates, to the dynamics of transistors. We show that the approaches reveal interesting structure in the data but do not meaningfully describe the hierarchy of information processing in the microprocessor. This suggests current analytic approaches in neuroscience may fall short of producing meaningful understanding of neural systems, regardless of the amount of data. Additionally, we argue for scientists using complex non-linear dynamical systems with known ground truth, such as the microprocessor as a validation platform for time-series and structure discovery methods.

Download data

  • Downloaded 101,025 times
  • Download rankings, all-time:
    • Site-wide: 3 out of 63,016
    • In neuroscience: 2 out of 11,260
  • Year to date:
    • Site-wide: 775 out of 63,016
  • Since beginning of last month:
    • Site-wide: 2,142 out of 63,016

Altmetric data

Downloads over time

Distribution of downloads per paper, site-wide

Sign up for the Rxivist weekly newsletter! (Click here for more details.)