back to article Human brain 'works like US presidential elections'

American brain specialists, in an announcement which may explain many puzzling aspects of human behaviour, say that the human bonce's decision-making process functions in a very similar way to US presidential elections. William Kath and Nelson Spruston, of Northwestern Uni in Illinois, discovered the so-called “two-layer …


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  1. Tom 15


    The American system isn't really that different to the British one... whichever party has received the most first-past-the-post votes gets their candidate (95% of the time; hung parliaments and emergencies are the exceptions).

    As far as I'm aware, if an American President resigned, died or was removed mid-term they'd end up with their Vice-President, much like we ended up with our 2nd in Command, rather than calling a snap-election.

  2. Omer Ozen

    In other words

    it is called Treshold Logic.

  3. peyton?

    Nice comparison, but which way?

    I'm not sure which this explains more, Alzheimer's or the current state of our government.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    shouldn't that be the other way round?

    There have been human brains on the planet far longer than the americans have been holding elections. Anyhow, empirical evidence tells us this cannot be the case: otherwise it would take over a year and cost millions just to make a simple A or B choice.

    Not convinced.

  5. Efros
    Paris Hilton


    You mean I have to go to court to get a decision made?

    Paris cos... well she was in pole position and she was first past the post.

  6. Joe Cooper


    I thought this was known?

    This is how it was explained to me in a 20 year old book on neural nets I found in the library a while back.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    i fully understand.

    "On other occasions (as we have now) a leader is chosen by the MPs of one party only without any consultation of the citizenry, as though neurons had lost most of their dendrites - a condition which causes a variety of terrible brain problems."

    So it's like getting infected with prions and a brain-wasting disease. You have my full and complete sympathy.

  8. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    In other words ...

    ... the right side of my brain is full of crazy voices screaming at the left side?

  9. Jason Togneri


    Judging by the farce when Bush was first elected, I wonder how many people's brains suffer from "hanging chads"?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You mean ...

    It has no security and utilises an Access database? GASP! <clutches pearls>

  11. Anonymous Coward

    right on !

    my brain definitely works like the Florida ballot paper , circa 2000. i.e. All confused, and over complicated.,_2000

  12. Nick 6

    I can't believe

    that my brain would ever vote for George Dubba Bush.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    is this new? or news?

    Seriously, I think pretty much every book on neural networks already kinda articulates this point. Just because some overpaid researcher comes up with a new analogy doesn't mean it's a breakthrough, it just means they've only just figured it out themselves.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The work like US Elections

    but only if the brother of the idea is in control of the last dendrite to report and magically the idea gets through despite actually losing the vote.

  15. Rosco

    RE: is this new? or news

    I think this is actually new but the distinction is fairly subtle. I believe it has always been assumed that each synapse contributes equally to the overall somatic potential of the neuron (and therefore whether or not an action potential is fired).

    What they're saying is that each synapse only contributes to the potential of its particular dendritic tree. The potential of each dendritic tree then contributes to the overall somatic potential in a way that is not the same as if each synapse contributed independently, though I'm not sure what the mechanism is that makes it different because I can't be bothered to read the article.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Don't look now

    but I think his homunculus is showing............

  17. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: is this new? or news?

    There are two elements to the analogy. The first is the winner-takes-all principle of operation, which I was taught at school about 30 years ago. So *that* isn't news. The second is the analogy with the US electoral system, which gathers these into a hierarchy (which again is not news) with exactly two levels. (Voters->electors->president) This would be such an astonishing limitation on the brain's complexity that I am willing to bet that it isn't true. (I'm pretty damn certain, for example, that it is *not* true for the visual cortex, which is one of the simpler parts of the brain that is relatively well understood.) So, no, it's not news. Depending on what "it" is, it is either several decades old or it is wrong.

    But as I'm not a subscriber to the journal, I cannot tell whether the fault lies with the researchers, the journal's press corps, or El Reg.

  18. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Errm....

    You're thinking of Gerald Ford, who took over when Nixon finally went under to Watergate.

    Actually Ford went one better, having only got the Vice Presidency when Agnew quit over tax-evasion charges, so he wasn't even elected to that either (Presidents and their Veeps come as a boxed set at election time.).

    From this side of the pond I recall him being quite good in the job, very statesmanlike, but the American electorate never forgave him for pardoning Nixon and replaced him with a peanut farming plonker.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    More like an AND gate, maybe?


  20. The First Dave


    So, what they are saying is that the human brain doesn't work very well?

    To mis-quote Churchill (I think) "Democracy is rubbish, but not quite as bad as everything else that we have tried."

  21. Barry 13

    Shome mishtake shurley

    I'm assuming they actually announced something a bit more significant than a reiteration of the functioning of the neuron that's been known for decades. I learnt that neurons functioned exactly like this in my biology 'O' level back in the 80's.

  22. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    "I think this is actually new but the distinction is fairly subtle."

    Ah. Too subtle for me, but upon re-reading the article I take your point. Humble pie for lunch, then.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boo @ El Reg..

    Dear El Reg,

    "In the US electoral college, people in the many states vote using various different systems - 'winner takes all', congressional district, dimpled chads etc - to choose electors who then select candidates for president."

    PLEASE get your facts correct before publication. The above sentence is entirely wrong. We are daft enough to NOT vote for our electoral college. This is one of the BIGGEST problems with our national election system today.

    Or to put another way, the general citizenry does NOT vote for the electoral college.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    'replaced him with a peanut farming plonker."

    And he got the price of peanuts up and it has never gone down since then.

  25. Eddy Ito

    The real question

    Does it matter? Here in the U.S. you decide who to give your money to but the gubbermint decides you are wrong and takes your money to give to their own friends. It doesn't matter who wins the election unless your name is Halliburton, AIG or UAW, then it determines how much of other people's money you get.

    If you fail to be too big to fail, it doesn't make any difference what your brain does. You lose either way.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old news

    I studied neural networks at university 10 years ago and I'm pretty sure I remember the brain's decision making process being described in this way. I don't think it was revolutionary at that time, so which part of this is means to be new?

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