Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are

Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are (2012) is a book by Sebastian Seung . It introduces basic concepts in neuroscience and then elaborates on the field ofconnectomics , ie, how to scan, decode, compare, and understand patterns in brain connectivity. The book concludes with musings on cryonics and mind uploading . It was selected by the Wall Street Journal as Top Ten Nonfiction of 2012. [1]

Book outline


Seung frames the idea of ​​connectomics and argues that “You are more than your genes.

Ch. 1: Genius and Madness

Seung introduces the 19th-century idea of phrenology and its modern-day counterpart, which he calls “neo-phrenology”, ie, the idea that sizes of brain regions play a role in intelligence (eg, Einstein’s enlarged inferior parietal lobule) or mental disorders (eg, schizophrenia and autism ). That said, Seung emphasizes that these sizes correlations only show up for large samples and can not necessarily predict what will happen in any individual brain.

Ch. 2: Border Disputes

Seung discusses localization maps of the brain For instance, phantom-limb is more likely to be used when the brain is injured. Hence, stimulation of the upper arm or face produces

In contrast to brain localization is the theory of equipotentiality , that any brain has the potential to perform any function.

Ch. 3: No Neuron Is an Island

Seung discusses basic cell-level neuroscience, including the structure of neurons and their neurites , as well as a weighted voting model of neuronal firing in which neuron fires when the weighted sum of excitatory minus inhibitory inputs exceeds a threshold.

Ch 4: Neurons All the Way Down

Neuroscopes can encode concepts (eg, Jennifer Aniston ) as they have been conceived, or they can be linked to one another, or they are bidirectionally unattended with cell assemblies or unidirectionally with synaptic chains.

Ch. 5: The Assembly of Memories

Seung discusses theories of memory formation, including basic Hebbian plasticity and the more speculative neural Darwinism . According to the “dual trace” theory of memory, short-term memory can take the form of persistent spiking among a cell assembly, while long-term memories can be stored in persistent connections. It is useful for both types of memory because of “stability-plasticity dilemma”, which is a concept familiar in which both RAM and hard drive storage.

Ch. 6: The Forestry of the Genes

Seung discusses how many psychological traits and disorders are at least partly genetic. (He quotes Eric Turkheimer’s First Law of Behavior Genetics: “All human behavioral traits are heritable.”) He elaborates on some of the mechanisms by which genes influence neural development and can lead to neural disorders.

Ch. 7: Renewing Our Potential

To what extent are the first three years of development a crucial window after which brain traits can not be reversed? And to what extent of brains remain plastic throughout life? Seung discusses evidence on both sides to show that the truth is a little bit of both.

Ch. 8: Seeing Is Believing

The way neuroscience has progressed in neuroscience has been advanced in the long run, arguably more than the immediate neuroscientific advances that these technologies enabled.

Ch. 9: Following the Trail

“If connected experiences are sustained exponential progress, then the whole of human connectomes will become easier before the end of the twenty first century.”

Sebastian Seung, Connectome , p. 169

Seung reviews the history of mapping the Caenorhabditis elegans connectome by Sydney Brenner and colleagues, published in 1986. The process required tremendous manual labor, goal connectome mapping is speeding up due to automation with artificial intelligence and intelligence amplification .

Ch. 10: Carving

Seung discusses ways of dividing up the brain into regions. Korbinian Brodmann based on Brodmann areas on uniformity of cortical layers within each area. Santiago Ramón and Cajal tried to identify types of neurons based on their shapes. It is proposed to divide brain regions based on what they generally connect to. He says this might be coincidental with Brodmann’s or Cajal’s divisions, but if we would be concerned about connectivity, Seung’s classification would be most directly relevant.

Ch. 11: Codebreaking

Seung discusses decoding memories from neural connections. As an example Potentially feasible in the near / medium term, he Suggests the HCV area in birds, qui May store Their songs in a way you Analogous Roughly a compact disc stores Beethoven music.

Ch. 12: Comparing

Seung discusses how to look at differences among brains based on differences in connectivity. This can be approximated by using MRI or at least fine-grained levels using connectome maps.

Ch. 13: Changing

Seung examines how connectomics can help identify neurological problems before they become serious and inform development of drugs or gene therapies for connectopathies.

Ch. 14: To Freeze or to Pickle?

Seung examines the efforts of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation to offer some chance of immortality by cryonics. He compares preservation in liquid nitrogen with a plastination approach, unlike Alcor ‘s method, requires “no special maintenance”.

Ch. 15: Save As …

Seung explored the idea of mind uploading and associated philosophical implications, Such As using similar year of the Turing test to determine if a simulation HAS Sufficient fidelity to Appear as the real “you” to outsiders, as well as whether You Would subjectively feel the upload to be “you” on the inside of your stored self-model. Seung discusses the idea that we are thinking of ourselves as we are neurons per se but we have the connection of neurons-can be seen as a new conception of soul. He suggests that transhumanism can give a spiritual perspective to a seemingly cold, material universe: “transhumanism lends meaning to lives that have been robbed of it by science” (273).


Abigail Zuger Characteristics Connectome as a book arguing that we are more than just our genes. She adds: “It is a testament to Dr. Seung’s remarkable clarity of exposure that the reader is swept along with his enthusiasm”. [2]Terry Sejnowski echoed this sentiment about the book’s style: “With the first-person flavor of James Watson ‘s Double Helix – an account of how DNA’s structure Was Discovered – Connectome Gives a sense of the excitement on the cutting edge of neuroscience . ” [3]

Susan Okie asserts that “Seung is a clear, lively writer who chooses vivid examples,” though she expresses skepticism about the “science fiction fantasy that, one day, a human being’s connected could be simulated and” uploaded “onto a computer”. [4]

Daniel Levitin praised Connectome as ” the best lay book on brain science I’ve ever read.” He says it is “witty and exceptionally clear” and includes “the equivalent of a college race on neuroscience”. That said, Levitin raised the caveat that a person is connected by itself, because beyond the neural wiring, “we also need to know the precise chemical soup of the day in the brain”. the change rules for how experiences [5]

“Even though we know the connection of the nematode worm for 25 years, we are not yet understanding its nerve cells work.”

Christof Koch [6]

Christof Koch said: “The book is well illustrated and sourced with an ending that is both engaging and idiosyncratic.” But like Levitin, Koch felt that the connectedness of itself is missing some parts of the picture and that not all of them are diseases of connectivity. Other possible problems may arise from “Faults in synaptic transmission and in neuron processes and the glial cells that support them”. [6]

See also

  • Memory
  • connectionism
  • Connectogram


  1. Jump up^ “The Best Nonfiction of 2012” . Wall Street Journal. Dec 14, 2012 . Retrieved 11 September 2015 .
  2. Jump up^ Zuger, Abigail (27 Feb 2012). “Genomics as a Final Frontier, or Just a Way Station” . New York Times . Retrieved 14 July 2014 .
  3. Jump up^ Sejnowski, Terrence (6 Feb 2012). “Are we merely the sum of our neurons?” . New Scientist . Retrieved 14 July 2014 .
  4. Jump up^ Okie, Susan (23 Jan 2012). ” ‘ Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind by Mark Pagel’ and ‘Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are’ by Sebastian Seung . Washington Post . Retrieved 14 July 2014 .
  5. Jump up^ Levitin, Daniel J. (4 Feb 2012). “The Ultimate Brain Quest” . Wall Street Journal . Retrieved 14 July 2014 .
  6. ^ Jump up to:b Koch, Christof (2 Feb 2012). “The connected self”. Nature . 482 (7383): 31. doi : 10.1038 / 482031a .

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