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Proceedings Paper

Brain: a complex adaptive structure at multiple levels
Author(s): Bradley G. Klein
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Paper Abstract

The human brain is comprised of over 100 billion neurons organized into tracts, nuclei, circuits and systems. This provides innumerable elegant abilities that rely on the nervous system to act as a complex adaptive structure (CAS). This property is apparent with respect to overall function, the function of individual neurons and the function of sensory and motor systems. At the overall functional level, the nervous system monitors the environments and can alter that environment. Alterations such as turning on a light switch or changing the diameter of neural vasculature, can improve the performance or chance for survival of the nervous system. Individual neurons can alter the activity of their electrogenic pumps, their rate of transmitter synthesis, their neurotransmitter release and their receptor density in order to maintain optimal functioning in a circuit following changes in their micro-environment. At the systems level, the visual system adjusts the orientation of the eyes or pupillary diameter to receive the highest quality visual information. In the motor system, the myotatic reflex maintains muscle position in the face of changing load, and the gain of the muscle organ responsible for the myotatic reflex can also be automatically adjusted. Internal homeostasis, essential for optimal performance of the nervous system, can be achieved through complex behavioral actions such as feeding. The hypothalamus plays an important role in such behaviors and in the type of sensorimotor integration responsible for the CAS nature of overall nervous system function. Thinking about the CAS characteristics of the nervous system may lead to development of non-biological CAS prostheses for the brain.

Paper Details

Date Published: 23 October 2001
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 4512, Complex Adaptive Structures, (23 October 2001); doi: 10.1117/12.446758
Show Author Affiliations
Bradley G. Klein, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4512:
Complex Adaptive Structures

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