How do cell assemblies encode information in the brain? (2023)

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Volume 23 Number 6,

October 1999

, pp. 785-796

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This article discusses why cells assemble codes, i. H. The overall encoding by functionally connected neurons is a powerful view of the brain's neural encoding and how it works in a working brain. The encoding of cell arrays has two main features, the partial overlap of neurons between arrays and the dynamics of connections within and between arrays. The former is the ability of neurons to participate in different types of information processing. The latter is the capacity of functional synaptic connections, identified by the activity correlations of neurons, to vary between different types of information processing. An example of a series of experiments to discover these two main properties is then given. Several relevant points on the actual dynamics of identifying the cellular assembly code are also cited. These include the dependence of the type of cellular assembly encoding on the type of information processing in different structures of the brain, sparse encoding of distributed overlapping arrays, and detection of coincidence as a role of individual neurons in the association of distributed neurons in cellular arrays.


Rapid advances in neuroscience around the world are gradually revealing many functions of the brain, but many mysteries remain about the exact nature of information processing. How to store an almost unlimited amount of information? How does the information link to other information? How to classify information based on similarity? How to process different information in parallel? Even if we address the "where" question, where in the brain is the functional map, and the "what" question, which molecular substances are in the brain, we will not be able to answer these enigmatic "how" questions? The question of "how" can only be resolved by elucidating how the brain actually processes information. The first step in answering the "how" question is to identify the underlying neural code of information processing. So we have to ask, what type of neural activity encodes information in the brain. This article explains the background, experimental strategy, and points to consider when investigating the most likely encoding, namely H. The overall encoding of the cell population must be considered. A more detailed literature and bibliography on cellular assembly coding is cited elsewhere [1], [2].

Sectional view

A single neural activity cannot be the basic code

The activity of individual neurons, the basic structural building blocks of the brain, raises several questions in terms of encoding information. The first and most serious problem is erratic neural activation activity. In neuroscience textbooks, neurons are sometimes represented as simple balloon-like structures. In fact, however, it is well known that real neurons are not that simple, each having many (possibly thousands) of synaptic contacts (Figure 1). This means that a single neuron

Experiments to identify key properties encoded by cellular assembly

How can we obtain experimental evidence that cellular assemblies encode the most important properties? The first property, the partial overlap of neurons between ensembles, is the ability of neurons to participate in different types of information processing. Therefore, functional overlap of individual neurons should be detected experimentally in several tasks. Several studies have found that neurons are not only associated with multiple events in a task, but also with different pieces of information

Cellular structures are encoded differently in different structures of the brain in different ways of information processing

Dual encoding concept of cell assembly and single neuron function, as in 3.2 Experiment 2: Cell assembly composed of task-relevant single neurons - Possibility of dual encoding of cell assembly and its individual neurons, 3.3 Experiment 3: Pattern-wise encoding Two traditional views can be integrated as suggested by Eichenbaum [50] on how cellular assembly is dynamic and task-dependent, especially when processing temporal information. simple hierarchy of views


Regardless of what theoretical framework is used and what techniques are used to observe neural activity in future studies, it is crucial to define the types of information processes in the working brain. The reason for this is that cellular arrangements must be dynamic in nature [62] and their properties must be able to change according to the type of information unit and processing. Therefore, the use of behavioral animals in behavioral tasks is essential, but psychological considerations of the task should not


This work was supported by a Scientific Research Grant from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Japan (Nos. 10164228 and 09610076) and a Future Research Program (96L00206) from the Japan Association for the Promotion of Science.


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  • Quoted from (105)

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      The brain is organized into anatomically distinct structures consisting of a large number of projection neurons. While this evolutionarily conserved neural circuit organization underlies the innate ability of animals to rapidly adapt to their environment, it can lead to biased perception and behavior. Although recent studies have begun to address the causal significance of projection neuron types as distinct computational units, how projection types are functionally organized among encoding variables during cognitive tasks remains unclear. This review focuses on the neural computation of decision making in the prefrontal cortex and discusses which decision variables are encoded by individual neurons, populations of neurons, and projection types, and how certain projection types limit decision making. In particular, we focus on the 'overrepresentation' of certain decision variables in the prefrontal cortex, reflecting the biological and subjective importance of the variable to the decision maker. We propose that task-specific overrepresentation in the prefrontal cortex is required to improve a given decision, whereas generalized overrepresentation of fundamental decision variables is associated with suboptimal decision biases, including pathological biases such as those found in patients with psychiatric disorders. This overrepresentation of fundamental decision variables in the prefrontal cortex appears to be severely limited by afferent and efferent connections that can be influenced by optogenetics. These ideas could provide important insights into potential therapeutic targets for psychiatric disorders, including addiction and depression.

    • Neurophysiological features of the periventricular/periaqueductal gray matter correlate with pain perception, sensation, and effects in patients with neuropathic pain

      2021, Neuroimaging: Clinical

      Quote excerpt:

      (Video) Isabel Espinosa Medina: "Temporal encoding and manipulation of vertebrate cell histories ..."

      High-level oscillations in LFP have been shown to be the product of synchronized subthreshold activity in a large number of local neuronal elements (Hammond et al., 2007). Therefore, real-time detection of changes in the level of neuronal oscillatory activity can reflect the dynamic activity of synchronization and desynchronization of neuronal populations (Buzsaki and Draguhn, 2004; Sakurai, 1999). Our previously established Dynamic Neural State Identification (DNSI) method is a method that can reliably detect dynamic levels of neuronal oscillatory activity (Luo, et al., 2018).

      The periventricular/periaqueductal gray matter (PAG/PVG) is critical to pain perception and is associated with pain-induced emotional perception. However, the electrophysiological properties of PAG/PVG in patients with chronic pain have been poorly studied. This study analyzed the oscillatory properties of local field potentials (LFPs) in the PAG/PVG of 18 patients with neuropathic pain. Power spectrum analysis and neural state analysis were applied to PAG/PVG-LFP. Neural state analysis is based on a dynamic approach to neural state identification and differentiates LFPs into distinct neural states, including single neural states based on one oscillation and combined neural states based on two paired oscillations. The duration and frequency of occurrence are used to quantify the dynamic characteristics of neuronal states. The results show that the combined neural states form three local networks based on neural oscillations responsible for the perceptual, sensory and affective components of pain. The first network arises from the interaction of delta vibrations with other vibrations and is responsible for encoding the perception of pain. The second network, responsible for encoding sensory pain information, has high gamma as the main node and is closely connected with other neural oscillations. A third network is responsible for encoding emotional pain information, in which beta oscillations play an important role. This study demonstrates that the combination of two neural oscillations in the PAG/PVG is critical for encoding the perceived, sensory and affective measures of pain.

    • Dynamics of memory traces

      2020, Neuroscience Research

      Quote excerpt:

      The idea of ​​cellular assembly is not a historical hypothesis, but one of the most reliable and established principles currently driving the field of memory neuroscience (Buzsáki, 2010; Eichenbaum, 2018; Sakurai et al., 2018). The detailed characteristics of the battery pack are described below (Palm, 1993; Sakurai, 1999). Cell arrays can be formed at any time according to the information to be encoded and processed, and the neurons that make up the array fire synchronously.

      In this updated article, we focus on "memory engrams", which are traces of long-term memories in the brain, and emphasize that they are dynamic rather than static. We begin by presenting key findings from neuroscience and psychology showing that memory traces are sometimes diffuse and unstable, suggesting that they are dynamically changing processes of consolidation and reconsolidation. Second, we introduce and discuss the concepts of cell assembly and imprinted cells. The former has been studied by psychological experiments and behavioral electrophysiology, and the latter is defined by the local combination of activity-dependent cellular markers and optogenetics to reveal the causal relationship between the activity of cell populations and changes in behavior. Third, we discuss the similarities and differences between cellular arrangements and the concept of engram cells to show the dynamics of memory engrams. We also discuss the advantages and issues of live-cell imaging, which has recently been developed to visualize multi-neuron activity. The final section proposes experimental strategies and background hypotheses for future engram research. The former facilitates the recording of cell assemblies from different brain regions during memory consolidation and reconsolidation, while the latter emphasizes the multipotency of neurons and regions that contribute to the dynamics of memory engrams in the working brain.

    • Neural coupling facilitates encoding of weak periodic signals in signed spike patterns

      2020, Communication in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation

      The biophysical mechanisms by which input signals elicit neuronal responses are well understood (a sufficiently large input alters the neuron's membrane potential, producing electrical impulses called action potentials or spikes), but there is good understanding of how neurons generate these spikes using It is currently not possible to encode signal information. Recent theoretical studies have focused on how neurons encode weak periodic signals (which cannot produce spikes by themselves) in noisy environments where random electrical fluctuations occur that do not encode information. Analysis of spike trains generated by a single neuron and two coupled neurons (simulated using a FitzHugh-Nagumo stochastic model) revealed that the relative timing of spikes can encode signal information. Analysis of spike trains using a symbolic approach identified preferred and rare spike patterns whose probabilities varied with the amplitude and frequency of the signal. To investigate whether this encoding mechanism also applies to ensembles of neurons, we here analyze the activity of a group of neurons when they perceive weak periodic signals. We found that, as in the case of one or two coupled neurons, the spike pattern probability now computed from the spike trains of all neurons depends on the amplitude and period of the signal, and thus on the pattern probability that encodes information about the signal. We also found that when a group of neurons perceives a signal, the resonance with the signal period or noise level is more pronounced than when only one or two coupled neurons perceive the signal. Neural coupling facilitates signal encoding because a group of neurons is able to encode small-amplitude signals that cannot be encoded if only one or two coupled neurons perceive it. Interestingly, we found that for a group of neurons, even a few interconnections can significantly improve the encoding of small-amplitude signals. Our results suggest that information encoded in preferred and rare spike patterns is a plausible mechanism by which populations of neurons can exploit the presence of neural noise to encode weakly periodic inputs.

    • Enhanced theta and high-gamma coupling late in a rule-switching task in the rat hippocampus

      2019, Neuroscience

      Hippocampal vibrations, especially in the theta (6–12 Hz) and gamma (30–90 Hz) frequency bands, play an important role in a variety of cognitive functions. Theta and gamma oscillations exhibit cross-frequency coupling (CFC), in which the phase of theta rhythms modulates the amplitude of gamma oscillations, and this CFC is thought to reflect the dynamics of cellular assembly during cognition. Previous studies have reported that CFC intensity is associated with learning. However, the details of these dynamic relationships could not be elucidated. In the present study, we analyzed local field potentials recorded from the rat hippocampus during a learned rule switching task. The modulation index, an indicator of CFC strength, was higher in rule-driven behavior than in irregular conditions. The enhanced coupling between theta and high gamma oscillations (60–90 Hz) changed later in learning. In contrast, the coupling between theta and low gamma oscillations (30–60 Hz) did not change during learning. These results suggest that coupling between theta and gamma bands occurs during rule learning and that high and low gamma bands play different roles in rule switching.

    • Notes on Information Handling

      2018, The Auditory System During Sleep

      This chapter describes the process of information processing. In general, information processing can be defined as a change in information that can be detected in some way by an observer or a system. In terms of a biosensory system, it can be a process that describes everything that is happening outside or inside the body, e.g. B. Sudden noises, changes in heart rate after waking up quickly or running, headaches, etc. From a cognitive perspective, information processing is a tool for trying to understand the process of memory storage or learning in humans.

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    Copyright © 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


    What is the cell assembly theory in psychology? ›

    By N., Sam M.S. n. In Hebbian theory, refers to a group of neurons organized as a single, functional unit. Through synaptic plasticity, the stimulation of a constituent neuron results in the simultaneous activation of the entire group.

    How are cell assemblies formed? ›

    Cell assemblies are groups of highly interconnected neurons [1]. They emerge due to correlated neuronal activity, for instance induced by external inputs. Correlated activity, in turn, leads to modifications of the synaptic efficacies via synaptic plasticity.

    What is the assembly of neurons? ›

    Assemblies are large populations of neurons believed to imprint memories, concepts, words, and other cognitive information. We identify a repertoire of operations on assemblies.

    What is an example of assembly theory? ›

    For example, if a parent disciplined a child for stealing, all procedural records relevant to this goal and situation would be activated. In turn, if a common disciplinary tactic was to take away toys and play items, a procedural record of that would be activated quickly.

    Who proposed the concept of cell assemblies as the basis of learning in the brain? ›

    It was introduced by Donald Hebb in his 1949 book The Organization of Behavior. The theory is also called Hebb's rule, Hebb's postulate, and cell assembly theory.

    What is the meaning of assembly of cell? ›

    The cell assembly (CA) hypothesis has been used as a conceptual framework to explain how groups of neurons form memories. CAs are defined as neuronal pools with synchronous, recurrent and sequential activity patterns.

    What is an assembly cell? ›

    Nowadays the concept of cell assembly is used loosely to describe a group of neurons that perform a given action or represent a given percept or concept in the brain.

    Where are cells assembled? ›

    Definition. The nucleolus is a spherical structure found in the cell's nucleus whose primary function is to produce and assemble the cell's ribosomes. The nucleolus is also where ribosomal RNA genes are transcribed.

    How does the brain receive the information from the receptor? ›

    Thalamus: The thalamus is the relay center of the brain. It receives afferent impulses from sensory receptors located throughout the body and processes the information for distribution to the appropriate cortical area. It is also responsible for regulating consciousness and sleep.

    How are neurons joined together in the brain? ›

    Neurons are connected to each other through synapses, sites where signals are transmitted in the form of chemical messengers.

    How are neurons formed in the brain? ›

    Neurons are born in areas of the brain that are full of neural stem cells, or precursor cells. Stem cells have the potential to make most, if not all, of the different types of neurons and glia found in the brain. Neuroscientists have observed how neural stem cells behave during experiments in the laboratory.

    Where is assembly used today? ›

    In modern programming, assembly language is most often used for direct hardware manipulation, access to specialized processor instructions, or to solve critical performance issues. More specifically, some common uses include device drivers, low-level embedded systems, and real-time systems.

    What are the three types of assembly? ›

    The Different Assembly Types
    • Mechanical Assembly. Mechanical assembly utilizes different types of hardware to assemble parts together. ...
    • Weld Assembly. ...
    • Spot Weld Assembly. ...
    • Rivet Assembly. ...
    • Sub-Assembly. ...
    • Partial Assembly. ...
    • Full Assembly. ...
    • All Your Production Needs Under One Roof.
    Apr 23, 2019

    What are three examples of assembler? ›

    What is an example of an assembler?
    • Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers.
    • Coil winders, tapers, and finishers.
    • Electrical and electronic equipment assembler.
    • Electromechanical equipment assemblers.
    • Engine and machine assemblers.
    • Fiberglass laminators and fabricators.
    Nov 9, 2021

    Who is known as the brain of the cell and why? ›

    nucleus. The nucleus is like the remote control center of the cell. It acts as the cell's brain by telling it what to do, how to grow, and when to reproduce.

    Who said that the cell assemblies is the foundation of memory Engram? ›

    In 1904, Richard Semon introduced the term “engram” to describe the neural substrate for storing memories. An experience, Semon proposed, activates a subset of cells that undergo off-line, persistent chemical and/or physical changes to become an engram.

    What process shapes the brain by eliminating some synaptic connections? ›

    Synaptic pruning is a natural process that occurs in the brain between early childhood and adulthood. During synaptic pruning, the brain eliminates extra synapses.

    What is assembly in simple terms? ›

    An assembly is a gathering of people, usually for some specific reason, as in The preacher gave a sermon before the assembly. Assembly is used to refer to a group of people who have gathered together. Usually, the people have a reason to come together such as for religious, political, or social purposes.

    What is assembly in simple words? ›

    : a body of persons gathered together (as to make laws or for discussion, worship, or entertainment) capitalized : a governing body. especially : the lower house of a legislature. 3. : the act of gathering together or state of being assembled.

    How do cells self assemble? ›

    In the context of molecules and cells, self-assembly is the autonomous organization of individual components into patterns and functional nanostructures through non-covalent interactions with the balance of both thermodynamic and global (or local) equilibrium.

    How did the assembly line work? ›

    Assembly lines are manufacturing systems in which work-in-progress moves from station to station in a sequential fashion. At each workstation, new parts are added or new assemblies take place, resulting in a finished product at the end.

    What is an assembly line and how does it work? ›

    An assembly line is where semi-finished products move from workstation to workstation. Parts are added in sequence until the final assembly is produced. Today, automated assembly lines are by machines with minimal human supervision.

    What is an example of a cellular manufacturing system? ›

    This grouping is called a cell. These cells are used to improve many factors in a manufacturing setting by allowing one-piece flow to occur. An example of one-piece flow would be in the production of a metallic case part that arrives at the factory from the vendor in separate pieces, requiring assembly.

    How do cells assemble proteins? ›

    In order for a cell to manufacture these proteins, specific genes within its DNA must first be transcribed into molecules of mRNA; then, these transcripts must be translated into chains of amino acids, which later fold into fully functional proteins.

    Where do our cells get energy? ›

    As we have just seen, cells require a constant supply of energy to generate and maintain the biological order that keeps them alive. This energy is derived from the chemical bond energy in food molecules, which thereby serve as fuel for cells.

    Which organelle is responsible for assembling cell products? ›

    Proteins are assembled at organelles called ribosomes. When proteins are destined to be part of the cell membrane or exported from the cell, the ribosomes assembling them attach to the endoplasmic reticulum, giving it a rough appearance.

    How does the brain take in information? ›

    Information from the senses passes through the sensory register to immediate memory and then on to working memory for conscious processing. If the learner attaches sense and meaning to the learning, it is likely to be stored. The self-concept often determines how much attention the learner will give to new information.

    Where does the brain send information from? ›

    The nervous system uses tiny cells called neurons (NEW-ronz) to send messages back and forth from the brain, through the spinal cord, to the nerves throughout the body. Billions of neurons work together to create a communication network.

    What part of the brain sends information? ›

    The pons and the medulla, along with the midbrain, are often called the brainstem. The brainstem takes in, sends out, and coordinates the brain's messages.

    How do brain cells communicate? ›

    Nerve cells (i.e., neurons) communicate via a combination of electrical and chemical signals. Within the neuron, electrical signals driven by charged particles allow rapid conduction from one end of the cell to the other.

    How long does it take for brain cells to regenerate? ›

    The brain can make thousands of new neurons every day and maintains this ability well into old age. By the time you turn 50, you will have replaced the original neurons in your hippocampus, your brain's “memory center,” with all new neurons!

    What activates neurons in the brain? ›

    3.3 Dynamics of Biological Neurons

    A neuron is activated by other neurons to which it is connected. In turn, its own activation stimulates other connected neurons to activation. If an impulse is started at any one place on the axon, it propagates in both directions.

    How does the brain feed on its own neurons? ›

    In the brain, phagocytosis is performed by a particular type of cell called microglia, which can 'eat' neurons (nerve cells) or the connections between neurons (synapses). Microglia engulf neurons and synapses during development in order to sculpt the neural circuits of the brain.

    What is the action assembly theory? ›

    Action Assembly Theory is a group of theories that seek to explain verbal and nonverbal message behavior by describing the system of cognitive structures and processes that gives rise to those behaviors.

    What are the 4 major concepts of cell theory? ›

    1) All organisms are made of cells. 2) All existing cells are produced by other living cells. 2) All existing cells are produced by other living cells. 3) The cell is the most basic unit of life.

    What is the theory of general memory function in psychology? ›

    1. Theory of General Memory Process: This theory explains that the memory consists of the three cognitive processes. These are— An encoding process, a storage process and a retrieval process. Encoding is the process of receiving a sensory input and transforming it into a form, or a code which can be stored.

    What is Hebb's cell assembly theory quizlet? ›

    1. The Hebb Rule: the repeated firing of two neurons strengthens the link between them. 2. Separate neurons can fire in a circular pattern, so the original neuron is eventually reactivated by another neuron in the pattern (a cell assembly)

    What is action theory in simple terms? ›

    action theory, Subfield of philosophy of mind that is specially important for ethics; it concerns the distinction between things that happen to a person and things one does or makes happen. Action theorists consider issues such as motive, desire, purpose, deliberation, decision, intention, trying, and free will.

    What is an example of action theory? ›

    For example, when we observe someone washing their car, we have some understanding of what that person is doing. However, Weber argued that pure observation is not enough to understand the meaning behind their social action.

    What is the mindset theory of action phases? ›

    The mindset theory of action phases proposes that different mental procedures need to be activated before a decision to perform a behavior to obtain a distal goal has been made compared to the procedures needed for goal pursuit after a decision has been made.

    What is an example of the cell theory? ›

    For example, bacteria, which are single-celled organisms, divide in half (after they grow some) to make new bacteria. In the same way, your body makes new cells by dividing the cells you already have. In all cases, cells only come from cells that have existed before.

    What is the most basic concept of cell theory? ›

    The unified cell theory states that: all living things are composed of one or more cells; the cell is the basic unit of life; and new cells arise from existing cells.

    What are three things about cell theory? ›

    The three principles of cell theory are:
    • All living organisms are composed of one or more cells.
    • A cell is the basic structural and functional unit of living organisms.
    • All cells arise from pre-existing cells.

    What might cause us to forget a piece of information? ›

    Forgetfulness can arise from stress, depression, lack of sleep or thyroid problems. Other causes include side effects from certain medicines, an unhealthy diet or not having enough fluids in your body (dehydration). Taking care of these underlying causes may help resolve your memory problems.

    How long does information stay in sensory memory? ›

    Sensory memory consists of sensory information retained in an unprocessed form in the sensory system through which it entered. This form of memory is short lived (0.5–3 seconds) but has a large capacity.

    Why do we forget information? ›

    "Memories are stored in ensembles of neurons called 'engram cells' and successful recall of these memories involves the reactivation of these ensembles. The logical extension of this is that forgetting occurs when engram cells cannot be reactivated.

    What is cellular assembly? ›

    In cellular manufacturing, production work stations and equipment are arranged in a sequence that supports a smooth flow of materials and components through the production process with minimal transport or delay.

    Which brain area is important for working memory? ›

    From the neuroscience perspective, it has been established that working memory activates the fronto-parietal brain regions, including the prefrontal, cingulate, and parietal cortices. Recent studies have subsequently implicated the roles of subcortical regions (such as the midbrain and cerebellum) in working memory.


    1. 2. Arboreal Mind: Finding Self in Nerve Cell Branching (Giorgio Ascoli)
    2. One Second In Your Brain - Jeremy Nathans (Johns Hopkins/HHMI)
    3. How Are Memories Created & Stored? Brain Anatomy | The World Of Science
    (The World Of Science)
    4. What Happens To Your Brain When You Mindlessly Scroll?
    5. Lamination Speeds the Functional Development of Visual Circuits
    (Cell Press)
    6. #CNStalk: The thalamus integrates the macro systems of the brain - James M Shine
    (Clinical Neuroanatomy Seminars)


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