What Is a Neuronal Ensemble?
- Luis Carrillo-ReidLuis Carrillo-ReidNational Autonomous University of Mexico, Department of Developmental Neurobiology and Neurophysiology
- and Rafael YusteRafael YusteColumbia University, NeuroTechnology Center, Department of Biological Sciences
Despite over a century of neuroscience research, the nature of the neural code, that is, how neuronal activity underlies motor, sensory, and cognitive functions, remains elusive. Understanding the causal relation between neuronal activity and behavior requires a new conceptual paradigm that considers groups of neurons, instead of individual neurons, as the functional building blocks of the brain. These “neuronal ensembles,” defined as groups of neurons with coordinated activity that are reliably recalled by sensory stimuli, motor programs, or cognitive states, could be basic modular functional units of neural circuits. This hypothesis is consistent with past and present neuroscience results and could provide a broader framework to more effectively decipher the neural code in normal brains and provide new insights into how abnormal brain activity could lead to mental and neurological disease.