[Comp-neuro] From firing rate analysis to "concept cells" dogma

Dorian Aur dorianaur at gmail.com
Tue Aug 23 21:11:03 CEST 2011

I have received many letters from friends, colleagues that asked me to
summarize the entire debate posted on that “private” short list. Since it is
our general interest to understand* the general issues regarding firing rate
and the myth of temporal coding *the comments posted by Asim Roy, Christof
Koch, Quilan Quiroga  and Asher Evans are revealed. These comments are
relevant to understand the entire scientific debate, the issues regarding
the concept cell idea. After 6 days of discussion several members on this
short - list understood that there are serious issues regarding “concept
cells” (or computation in single neurons).  As you may see the entire
discussion was about “High level abstractions in concept cells; Single
spiking neurons have meaning and are actually at the cognitive level”

Details regarding KEY moments of the debate:

1.      Aug 12: I was invited on a “private” list after the message was
published on comp-neuro and on their broad list .  Asim Roy read my message
and acknowledges that may be some issues regarding the firing rate measure
and that may be other “better methods”
2.      Aug 15: I have informed all members of the “private list” about
semantics in single spike, spike directivity and  two counterexamples were
3.       Aug 16:  I posted  other two other examples regarding neurofeedback
to show  that Moran Cerf paper is not about “concept cells”.
4.      Aug 17: Koch is forced to provide explanations and identifies
another paper  (Quiroga et al. 2007) where the same group found so called
“concept cells”. It seems that this lab had a history of “breakthrough
findings”. Koch’s comments are questioned, other members start to make
inquiries regarding the “concept cell” idea
5.      Aug 18:Asim Roy, cannot answer to basic questions -definition of
concept cell, grandmother cell: Asim Roy:”I have characterized it in a
recent paper. But I don’t know of an exact definition.” Quian Quiroga tries
to help, presents the story of grandmother cell, not the expected definition

 (Regarded as a universal truth,  spike timing does not need to be disputed
or doubted in neuroscience!)

7.       Aug 20: Dorian Aur: the logical inconsistency of “concept cell “
idea is fully revealed based on experimental data.

Indeed the entire group deserves the Ig Nobel Prize  in neuroscience for
“breakthrough findings”of “concept cells” discovery. In the last 6-7 years
these claims regarding “concept cells” were advertised everywhere by Koch’s
group. From a unreliable measure (firing rate) they have gone too far. All
experiments (Aur et al submitted) show a more powerful model of computation
within neurons and in the brain.  The current data analysis of temporal
patterns in neuroscience is an insult to the capabilities of actual  neurons
to process information. They have completely misled us with temporal coding
models regarding semantics or concept cells.  Computation in the brain
deserves a specific model, and NED represents is such a model that shapes a
new vision in the field. The entire connectionist theory can be seen as a
particular model of computing by interaction. I'm planning to write more
regarding this relationship. An entire infrastructure needs to be built to
allow a different approach.  Neuroelectrodynamics describe computation as an
ongoing process shaped by the dynamics and interactions of electric charges.
The process of interaction can be evidenced during action potentials and
synaptic spikes since transient electrical patterns occur in each generated
spike. Intracellularly the coding of information is related to physical
machinery able to alter the dynamics of electric charges and their spatial
distribution at the molecular level. These subtle changes in single spikes
can provide the required information regarding semantics if spike
directivity is computed. Therefore, helping each other to see the reality in
science is the only thing that makes sense. An idea or hypothesis that is
based on errors in methodology or reasoning disappoints sooner or later
everyone, everywhere.

 The debate is posted  at:

Dorian Aur
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