Weekend bioRxiv Preprint Review: Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?

The paper below, which may raise further concerns about potential direction of the Human Brain Project, is brief, and should be read to be properly appreciated. The concerns the paper supports have been raised before, by this writer and many others, but the paper supports those concerns by showing how little we might learn about a highly complex information system using even the latest neuronal probes if we have no detailed theoretical understanding of what functions are intended by the tissue under investigation. A well written and clever bit of work.



Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?

Eric Jonas and Konrad Kording

May 26, 2016


There is a popular belief in neuroscience that we are primarily data limited, that producing large, multimodal, and complex datasets will, enabled by data analysis algorithms, lead to fundamental insights into the way the brain processes information. Microprocessors are among those artificial information processing systems that are both complex and that we understand at all levels, from the overall logical flow, via logical gates, to the dynamics of transistors. Here we take a simulated classical microprocessor as a model organism, and use our ability to perform arbitrary experiments on it to see if popular data analysis methods from neuroscience can elucidate the way it processes information. We show that the approaches reveal interesting structure in the data but do not meaningfully describe the hierarchy of information processing in the processor. This suggests that current approaches in neuroscience may fall short of producing meaningful models of the brain.

Oxygen as Treatment for Migraine

We've long known that oxygen, when given in a high flow mask form, often relieves cluster and sometimes migraine headache. Such treament is safe and often effective, but Medicare's current rules prohibit coverage of axygen for headache (Medicare requires that the patient's blood oxygen be significantly lower than normal as a reason for coverage).

The following trial confirms oxygen's efficacy in migraine (not as good as injectable sumatriptan, but as good as some oral triptan forms).



High-flow oxygen therapy for treatment of acute migraine: A randomized crossover trial

Aneesh B Singhal1, Matthew B Maas, Joshua N Goldstein, Brittany B Mills, David W Chen, Cenk Ayata, Robert M Kacmarek, Mehmet A Topcuoglu

Cephalalgia May 20, 2016

doi: 10.1177/0333102416651453

Background Impaired oxygen utilization and cerebrovascular dysfunction are implicated in migraine. High-flow oxygen is effective in cluster headache and has shown promise in animal models of migraine, but has not been adequately studied in patients with migraine.

Methods In this randomized, crossover-design, placebo-controlled trial, adult migraineurs self-administered high-flow oxygen or medical air at 10–15 l/min via face mask in blinded fashion starting soon after symptom onset for 30 minutes, for a total of four migraine attacks. Participants recorded the severity of headache, nausea, and visual symptoms on visual analog scales periodically up to 60 minutes.

Results We enrolled 22 individuals (mean age 36 years, 20 women) who self-treated 64 migraine attacks (33 oxygen, 31 air). The pre-specified primary endpoint (mean decrease in pain score from baseline to 30 minutes) was 1.38 ± 1.42 in oxygen-treated and 1.22 ± 1.61 in air-treated attacks (p = 0.674). Oxygen therapy resulted in relief (severity score 0–1) of pain (24% versus 6%, p = 0.05), nausea (42% versus 23%, p = 0.08) and visual symptoms (36% versus 7%, p = 0.004) at 60 minutes. Exploratory analysis showed that in moderately severe attacks (baseline pain score <6), pain relief was achieved in six of 13 (46%) oxygen versus one of 15 (7%) air (p = 0.02). Gas therapy was used per protocol in 91% of attacks. There were no significant adverse events.

Conclusion High-flow oxygen may be a feasible and safe strategy to treat acute migraine. Further studies are required to determine if this relatively inexpensive, widely available treatment can be used as an adjunct or alternative migraine therapy.

Friday Blues: Prince

Listen here as well.

RIP, Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016). If it was prescription opiates, how much the worse is that epidemic of misuse in this nation!

I think the Artist was at his best with a beautiful melody and a simple accompaniment. I hope we will hear, and maybe see him again, and more so, especially if we find more digital music from his discography released to the internet in future months.

An alternative to Kim's physicalism

In his book Physicalism, or Something Near Enough , Jaegwon Kim says: The final picture that has emerged is this: P is a cause of P*, wi...