A universal theory of the brain

November 27, 2015 - 05:23
Article from University of Bergen

Norwegian researchers have recently found evidence of a generalized active network for cognitive functions of the brain.

Professors Kenneth Hugdahl and Karsten Specht of the Bergen fMRI Group want to prove the existence of a cognitive network that connects all of the human brain. (Illustrative photo: Colourbox)

“I experienced a kind of moment that may be more common for theoretical physicists: the idea that something just has to be there, even though you cannot see it,” says neuroscientist Kenneth Hugdahl from the Bergen fMRI Group in an interview with the University of Bergen’s newspaper På Høyden.

Initially Hugdahl thought that he was just misunderstanding. But during preparations for a lecture he sat with nine fMRI images in front of him, when he suddenly discovered that the active red and yellow regions in the brain-map appeared in almost the same places in all images. The neuroscientist had to ask himself: could it be possible that there was an existing fn the brain that overlapped between all cognitive functions?

The article On the existence of a generalized non-specific task-dependent network was published in the online journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Hugdahl is the co-author with his colleague from Bergen fMRI Group, Professor Karsten Specht, and Kavli-price winner Professor Marcus Raichle and his Postdoctoral fellow Anish Mitra from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.

First step in a new direction

Although the idea has been mentioned before, no brain researchers previously have been able to empirically prove that there is a cognitive network “for everything”. The idea of something that works as some sort of wiring diagram for the brain is therefore quite revolutionary.

Traditionally, this kind of brain research has focused on looking at individual functions of problem solving in specific areas of the brain. Hugdahl and his colleagues' article could be the first step in a new direction, toward something that can become the neuroscientific version of the “theory of everything” – one single explanation for all active, cognitive functions.

  • The Bergen fMRI Group was established in 1994.
  • fMRI is short for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
  • The group has done pioneering work in fMRI research in Norway and internationally.
  • The group is an interdisciplinary research group at the University of Bergen (UiB) and Haukeland University Hospital (HUS).
  • The group’s work focuses on brain activation studies related to a broad spectre of cognitive functions, including laterality, speech and language, working memory, attention, music, schizophrenia, and emotions.
  • A particular focus for the research group is the study of auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia, and dichotic listening studies of cognitive control.
  • The group is headed by Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, who was a recipient of an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) 2010–2015.

For more information, visit the Bergen fMRI Group home page

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University of Bergen
The University of Bergen is located in Bergen, Norway. Six faculties cover most of the traditional university disciplines. Within the faculties are included 60 different specialised departments, centres and institutes. Read more

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