2Information Processing in the Living

This chapter is devoted to diverse types of basic knowledge acquired from neuroscience that are essential for the design of bio-inspired information processing circuits. The tremendous scientific advances made in neuroscience in recent years allow us to better understand the principles governing the functioning of the brain, but they also often highlight its extreme complexity.

Our goal will not be to describe in detail the extent of our knowledge of this subject, but rather to try to extract the few essential principles that will be drawn upon for the design and manufacture of devices, circuits and systems emulating certain properties and characteristics of the brain.

In this chapter, we will therefore focus more on functions than on the detail of the structures and biological devices that make them possible: we will turn our attention to devices in Chapter 3. Moreover, while information is processed via both chemical and electrical processes, we will focus our attention on information processed in the electrical form, as it can be reproduced fairly easily by electronic devices and circuits. We are, of course, aware that a selective approach such as this renders the question overly simplistic, but it represents a basis that may be subsequently expanded upon.

This chapter is presented in several stages, starting from a macroscopic vision (the organ as a whole) and moving on to the basic information processing component, the cortical column. ...

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