Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Newton Howard, Professor of Computational Neurosciences and Neurosurgery at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, has discovered a functional optical layer in the human neocortex. This new insight into how the brain works may lead to uncovering causes of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

The recent discovery, published in Springer Nature, shows that a bistable (ie. computable) layer of optical circuitry is functioning within the human neocortex. If true, this would imply that higher-order thought may in fact be optical in nature, rather than electrochemical. A functional optical layer in the human neocortex would explain many mysteries, including the brain’s famous Energy Paradox - the fact that the brain requires only a few watts (barely enough to light a bulb) to operate, while all the energy of a massive hydroelectric dam would be required to power a computer that operated as quickly.

An exciting new project in the field of neuroscience called ni2o is now working on developing the necessary nanotechnology and optoelectronics to probe and drive this newly discovered optical layer. 

Professor Howard commented: 'Understanding brain function and dysfunction requires a multidisciplinary approach and various methodologies ranging from biology to mathematics. One of the biggest challenges is decoding how the brain and its neurons are structured and how they function. This information is crucial for better understanding normal brain function and possibly uncovering causes of brain disorders.'

The full paper, The Fundamental Code Unit of the Brain: Towards a New Model for Cognitive Geometry, can be read in Springer Nature.

 

Similar stories

Using artificial intelligence (AI) for safer CT imaging of blood vessels

Congratulations to Dr Regent Lee at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) who has been awarded a grant of £246,226 from Heart Research UK for his research project ‘Using artificial intelligence (AI) for safer CT imaging of blood vessels’.

Developing new ways to assess kidneys so transplants last for longer

With funding from Kidney Research UK, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Nottingham and University College London will develop ways to assess donor kidneys and predict how well they will work after transplant.

Potential for radiotherapy and VTP multimodality therapy for prostate cancer

A recent collaborative study from the University of Oxford has investigated the potential benefit of a combined therapy approach to prostate cancer treatment, using radiotherapy and vascular targeted photodynamic therapy (VTP), which could lead to first-in-man early phase clinical trials.

Omair Shariq wins Best Clinical Paper at the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons 2021 Annual Meeting

Dr Omair Shariq, a DPhil student and clinical research fellow in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) and Oxford Centre for Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM), has received the 2021 Best Presentation for Clinical Research award during the 41st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons (AAES), which was held virtually on 25-27 April 2021.

Artificial intelligence tool for streamlining pathology workflow

A multidisciplinary team, comprising Andrea Chatrian, Dr Richard Colling, Professor Clare Verrill, Professor Jens Rittscher and colleagues, develops an algorithm for automated requesting of additional investigation in diagnostically uncertain prostate biopsies.

Latest issue of JNDS now online

The latest issue of the Journal of the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (JNDS) is now available to read.

Blog posts

My virtual work experience with NDS and NDORMS

Louise Tan, a Year 12 student from Ballyclare in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, recently attended the joint NDS and NDORMS Virtual Work Experience. In this guest blog, Louise reflects on her experience.

Celebrating women of NDS

To celebrate 100 years since women were admitted as full members of the University and on the occasion of International Women's Day, a group of inspirational women in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) reflect on their journeys, their place in Medical Sciences and their vision for the next 100 years.

The life of a research nurse: supporting the Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Research nurses in the NHS are playing a crucial role in helping to trial new coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Three NDS research nurses stepped up to help with the fight against this new disease. Here Bhumika Patel shares her experience of working on the Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Trial.

Why I became a Peer Supporter

The Peer Support Programme was developed in recognition of the essential role students play in supporting and encouraging one another on a day-to-day basis throughout their time at university. NDS’ own Helen Stark discusses her experience of becoming a Peer Supporter.

Racism under the microscope

As Black History Month gets underway in the UK, NDS Athena SWAN Coordinator Emily Hotine puts racism under the microscope.