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Brain prunes self to achieve best “design”

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Looie496 (talk)/30 September 2011

From Salk Institute:

LA JOLLA–When tweaking its architecture, the adult brain works like a sculptor–starting with more than it needs so it can carve away the excess to achieve the perfect design. That’s the conclusion of a new study that tracked developing cells in an adult mouse brain in real time.

New brain cells began with a period of overgrowth, sending out a plethora of neuronal branches, before the brain pruned back the connections. The observation, described May 2, 2016 in Nature Neuroscience, suggests that new cells in the adult brain have more in common with those in the embryonic brain than scientists previously thought and could have implications for understanding diseases including autism, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia.

“We were surprised by the extent of the pruning we saw,” says senior author Rusty Gage, a professor in Salk’s Laboratory of Genetics and holder of the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease.

More.

Are these people allowed to talk about the brain working like a “sculptor” on a design?

One problem with claims that it all just evolved by natural selection is that much less functional complexity is required for a life form to just successfully exist. The process, if it worked at all, would stop long before this.

See also: Brain guardians remove dying neurons (also from Salk)

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4 Replies to “Brain prunes self to achieve best “design”

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    All that pruning. Must be a bad design. Am I right?

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Just think of all the brain cells that must have gone extinct.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Why are they referring to the brain as a causal agent that is ‘like a sculptor’ achieving ‘the perfect design’?

    Perhaps they would like to write the article again without using words that imply purpose and planning by an agent? Oh wait, that is impossible to do.

    The ‘Mental Cell’: Let’s Loosen Up Biological Thinking! – Stephen L. Talbott – September 9, 2014
    Excerpt: Many biologists are content to dismiss the problem with hand-waving: “When we wield the language of agency, we are speaking metaphorically, and we could just as well, if less conveniently, abandon the metaphors”.
    Yet no scientist or philosopher has shown how this shift of language could be effected. And the fact of the matter is just obvious: the biologist who is not investigating how the organism achieves something in a well-directed way is not yet doing biology, as opposed to physics or chemistry. Is this in turn just hand-waving? Let the reader inclined to think so take up a challenge: pose a single topic for biological research, doing so in language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness1.
    One reason this cannot be done is clear enough: molecular biology — the discipline that was finally going to reduce life unreservedly to mindless mechanism — is now posing its own severe challenges. In this era of Big Data, the message from every side concerns previously unimagined complexity, incessant cross-talk and intertwining pathways, wildly unexpected genomic performances, dynamic conformational changes involving proteins and their cooperative or antagonistic binding partners, pervasive multifunctionality, intricately directed behavior somehow arising from the interaction of countless players in interpenetrating networks, and opposite effects by the same molecules in slightly different contexts. The picture at the molecular level begins to look as lively and organic — and thoughtful — as life itself.
    http://natureinstitute.org/txt.....ell_23.htm

    This working biologist agrees with Talbott’s assessment:

    Life, Purpose, Mind: Where the Machine Metaphor Fails – Ann Gauger – June 2011
    Excerpt: I’m a working biologist, on bacterial regulation (transcription and translation and protein stability) through signalling molecules, ,,, I can confirm the following points as realities: we lack adequate conceptual categories for what we are seeing in the biological world; with many additional genomes sequenced annually, we have much more data than we know what to do with (and making sense of it has become the current challenge); cells are staggeringly chock full of sophisticated technologies, which are exquisitely integrated; life is not dominated by a single technology, but rather a composite of many; and yet life is more than the sum of its parts; in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology–we simply cannot avoid them.
    Furthermore, I suggest that to maintain that all of biology is solely a product of selection and genetic decay and time requires a metaphysical conviction that isn’t troubled by the evidence. Alternatively, it could be the view of someone who is unfamiliar with the evidence, for one reason or another. But for those who will consider the evidence that is so obvious throughout biology, I suggest it’s high time we moved on. – Matthew
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....nt-8858161

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    If only there were an alternative to ‘intelligence’, such as ‘brain’, ‘cerebral cortex’, etc. It would make life, metaphysics and science so much more intelligible to atheists.

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