According to scientists, neurons generate perceptions, thoughts and actions by emitting electrical pulses which is called action potentials or spikes.
Tsien's team who has monitored mouse neurons during various activities said that the magic happens when a group of neurons enter an atypical state- not of firing - but of the relative periods of silence between the firing and entering that period at the same time.
These silent spaces between firings are called interspike intervals, and, the neurons having irregular intervals at the same time are part of a clique generating perceptions, actions and thoughts in real time.
One problem with that standard measure of neuron action is that neurons are essentially always firing at some level and with spontaneous fluctuation, even when it's not clear what is happening as a result, says Tsien.
He uses the analogy of an ocean surface that may look calm compared to a tsunami, but is never truly still.
Applying this new Neural Self-Information Theory, Tsien's team have identified 15 groups of cell assemblies in the cortex and hippocampus of the brain that work together to enable things sleep cycles, sensing, a person's response to things which they see and experience at any given instant.
The team studied mice playing a game where a light shines on a wall and the creature learns that if he pokes a hole in that same spot, rather than four other choices, he will get a food pellet when he returns to where he started. If he doesn't come back in time or pokes the wrong hole, no food pellet awaits.
"It's a simple task but highly attention driven, and how the brain executes this task was poorly understood," said Tsien.
Tsien added that in order to identify cell cliques which makes the mouse successful in its choice, one must find monitor the interspike intervals of each and every neuron.
Using the analogy of a normally chatty individual in an uncharacteristic period of silence Tsien says the cells one monitors are the ones that move into a surprisal state.
"That is when these cells start to act as a clique," he says. "That is when the neural cliques are coming together to encode a train of thought or a set of actions. If it's what happens usually, that means it does not carry much information, it's like a ground state," added Tsien.
The studies appear in Cerebral Cortex Journal.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)