Grid cells and time cells in rats, continuity, and the monkey’s mind

I have often said that I get particular pleasure from mathematics that defies common sense expectations. A simple example would be the observation that two things can be the same size even though one of them is contained in the other – like the set of natural numbers and the set of positive even integers. […]

The plasticity of grids, in our heads and otherwise

Familiar mathematical structure is found in the neural activity that governs how the body orients itself and navigates its environment. Grid cells are neurons, found in areas neighboring the hippocampus, whose individual firings line up in a coordinate-like pattern according to an animal’s movement across the full extent of its environment. Their grid pattern acts […]

Navigation cells, intent, and folded dimensions

I read a short article on reporting on a recent advance in the investigation of the neural systems that support navigation, or our sense of direction. When I did some follow-up on the individual who led the study, I was surprised to find another interesting collaboration between scientists and artists. While the collaboration was […]

New strategies, new circuitries, new mathematics

I came upon an MIT News article about the work of Ila Fiete who studies brain functions, like the neurological processes that govern navigational reasoning about our surroundings. Fiete uses computational and mathematical tools. Her interest in biology, and her respect for the “aesthetic to thinking mathematically,” (as she put it) led her to […]

What does the mind’s eye see?

My attention was recently brought to a discussion of grid cells and spatial imagery as they relate to cognitive strengths in dyslexic individuals. The discussion takes place in the book The Dyslexic Advantage by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, and it amplified many of the thoughts I have expressed about the biological aspect of […]

Intelligence, artificial and otherwise

Earlier this month, Nature reported on Artificial Intelligence (AI) research, where deep learning networks (an AI strategy) spontaneously generated patterns of computations that bore a striking resemblance to the activity generated by our own grey matter – namely by the neurons called grid cells in the mammalian brain. The patterned firing of grid cells enable […]

The mathematical nature of self-locating

A 2011 TED talk in London was brought to my attention recently. The speaker, Neil Burgess from University College London, spoke on the topic, “How your brain tells you where you are.” Burgess investigates the role of the hippocampus in spatial navigation and episodic memory. In the talk he describes the function of what are […]

Foraging for food, remembering, and mathematics

On April 16 reported on research that links hunting for words with foraging for food.

Our brains may have evolved to forage for some kinds of memories in the same way, shifting our attention from one cluster of stored information to another depending on what each patch has to offer. Recently, Thomas Hills of […]

Cognition and Will

I see mathematics as associated with a searching, instinctual will, whose direction is shaped by our biology. I find some of its roots in the way our visual system constructs what we see, or in the way grid cells (neurons lit by location) tell a rat where it is, or the way ants can find […]

Structure, structure and more structure

I was expecting to write about a paper I found recently by Oran Magal, a post doc at McGill University, On the mathematical nature of logic. I was attracted to the paper because the title was followed by the phrase Featuring P. Bernays and K. Gödel

I’m often intrigued […]