"Neural network" models of brain function assume neurons and their synaptic connections to be the fundamental units of information processing, somewhat like switches within computers. However, neurons and synapses are extremely complex and resemble entire computers rather than switches. The interiors of the neurons (and other eucaryotic cells) are now known to contain highly ordered parallel networks of filamentous protein polymers collectively termed the cytoskeleton. Originally assumed to provide merely structural "bone-like" support, cytoskeletal structures such as microtubules are now recognized to organize cell interiors dynamically. The cytoskeleton is the internal communication network for the eucaryotic cell, both by means of simple transport and by means of coordinating extremely complicated events like cell division, growth and differentiation. The cytoskeleton may therefore be viewed as the cell's "nervous system". Consequently the neuronal cytoskeleton may be involved in molecular level information processing which subserves higher, collective neuronal functions ultimately relating to cognition. Numerous models of information processing within the cytoskeleton (in particular, microtubules) have been proposed. We have utilized cellular automata as a means to model and demonstrate the potential for information processing in cytoskeletal microtubules. In this paper, we extend previous work and simulate associative learning in a cytoskeletal network as well as assembly and disassembly of microtubules. We also discuss possible relevance and implications of cytoskeletal information processing to cognition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Mathematical Physics
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Applied Mathematics