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The Neural Basis of Free WillCriterial Causation$
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Peter Ulric Tse

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019101

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019101.001.0001

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Neurons Impose Physical and Informational Criteria for Firing on Their Inputs

Neurons Impose Physical and Informational Criteria for Firing on Their Inputs

(p.31) 4 Neurons Impose Physical and Informational Criteria for Firing on Their Inputs
The Neural Basis of Free Will

Peter Ulric Tse

The MIT Press

This chapter focuses on a fundamental puzzle in neuroscience that concerns neural networks and why they concern themselves with relatively slow chemical transmission between neurons at the synapse, when electrical communication would be much faster. This puzzle is examined in an effort to explain how neurons physically realize informational criteria placed on characteristics of their input, which, if met, trigger neuronal firing. Evolution cannot easily come up with an unbroken reticulum because such a reticulum would have to be constructed of cells, and cells are, by their very nature, discrete entities. However, cellularity alone cannot explain the nervous system’s dependence on chemical transmission at most synapses. An alternative answer to this puzzle arises from the present view of neurons as criterial decoders. Neurons keep their intracellular potential discrete because they each impose their own discrete set of criteria for firing on their inputs.

Keywords:   neuroscience, neural networks, chemical transmission, neurons, electrical communication, informational criteria, neuronal firing, evolution, cellularity, criterial decoders

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