Sep. 23, 2013 — Our brains give us the remarkable ability to make sense of situations we've never encountered before -- a familiar person in an unfamiliar place, for example, or a coworker in a different job role -- but the mechanism our brains use to accomplish this has been a longstanding mystery of neuroscience.
Now, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have demonstrated that our brains could process these new situations by relying on a method similar to the "pointer" system used by computers. "Pointers" are used to tell a computer where to look for information stored elsewhere in the system to replace a variable.
For the study, published today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team relied on sentences with words used in unique ways to test the brain's ability to understand the role familiar words play in a sentence even when those words are used in unfamiliar, and even nonsensical, ways.
I think we all like to daydream sometimes. Perhaps daydreaming is our way of calculating and learning new situations. More than once I've run through different scenarios on how a situation could play out. Not to mention, how we behave in new areas and around new people is vastly different than around those we already know.
The intricacies of the human brain are so numerous that there is no doubt that a system like this is required. Regardless of how simple it all may seem, understanding how this system works within the neural network creates a huge hurdle for neuroscientists to truly understand the human brain.
Even if shows us how much more we have to learn, it is good to know that we are still moving forward!