List of unsolved problems in neuroscience

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There are yet unsolved problems in neuroscience, although some of these problems have evidence supporting a hypothesized solution, and the field is rapidly evolving. These problems include:

  • Consciousness: What is the neural basis of subjective experience, cognition, wakefulness, alertness, arousal, and attention? Is there a "hard problem of consciousness"? If so, how is it solved? What, if any, is the function of consciousness?[1][2]
    • One possible explanation is provided by the theory of practopoiesis by Dr. Danko Nikolic at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. The theory of practopoiesis tells us that intelligence emerges from layers of adaptive systems. These are called traverses and are referenced as T1, T2, T3, etc. [3] Each traverse produces a higher degree of adaptive/intelligent behaviour. The theory also tells us that human intelligence is a T3 system. With this theory, the hard problem of consciousness and all its sub-problems reduce to rather uninteresting phenomena called ideasthesia. Ideasthesia is defined as a phenomenon in which activations of concepts (inducers) evoke perception-like experiences (concurrents). While synesthesia presumes that both inducer and concurrent are of sensory nature, ideasthesia presumes that only the concurrent is of sensory nature while inducer is semantic. Research on ideasthesia bears important implications for solving the mystery of human conscious experience, which according to ideasthesia, is grounded in how we activate concepts.
  • Perception: How does the brain transfer sensory information into coherent, private percepts? What are the rules by which perception is organized? What are the features/objects that constitute our perceptual experience of internal and external events? How are the senses integrated? What is the relationship between subjective experience and the physical world?
  • Learning and memory: Where do our memories get stored and how are they retrieved again? How can learning be improved? What is the difference between explicit and implicit memories? What molecule is responsible for synaptic tagging?
  • Neuroplasticity: How plastic is the mature brain?
  • Development and evolution: How and why did the brain evolve? What are the molecular determinants of individual brain development?
  • Free will, particularly the neuroscience of free will
  • Sleep: What is the biological function of sleep? Why do we dream? What are the underlying brain mechanisms? What is its relation to anesthesia?
  • Cognition and decisions: How and where does the brain evaluate reward value and effort (cost) to modulate behavior? How does previous experience alter perception and behavior? What are the genetic and environmental contributions to brain function?
  • Language: How is it implemented neurally? What is the basis of semantic meaning?
  • Diseases: What are the neural bases (causes) of mental diseases like psychotic disorders (e.g. mania, schizophrenia), Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or addiction? Is it possible to recover loss of sensory or motor function?
    • One possible neural basis for mental illness is law integration disorder, a term coined by Johan Nygren, a Swedish gentleman who studied medicine and gene memes. While things like Parkinsons are easily explained medically by lack of dopamine, probably caused by environmental epigenetic effects like exposure to pesticides, other mental disorders lack a physiological basis. The theory of law integration disorder factors in the fight or flight response to coercion and explains these non-physiological mental illnesses as stress-induced phenomena.
  • Movement: How can we move so controllably, even though the motor nerve impulses seem haphazard and unpredictable?[4]
  • Computational theory of mind: What are the limits of understanding thinking as a form of computing?
  • Computational neuroscience: How important is the precise timing of action potentials for information processing in the neocortex? Is there a canonical computation performed by cortical columns? How is information in the brain processed by the collective dynamics of large neuronal circuits? What level of simplification is suitable for a description of information processing in the brain? What is the neural code?
  • How does general anesthetic work?
  • Neural computation: What are all the different types of neuron and what do they do in the human brain?[5]
  • Noogenesis - the emergence and evolution of intelligence: What are the laws and mechanisms - of new idea emergence (insight, creativity synthesis, intuition, decision-making, eureka); development (evolution) of an individual mind in the ontogenesis, etc.?


  1. ^ Sejnowski, Terrence J.; Hemmen, J. L. van (2006). 23 problems in systems neuroscience (PDF). Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514822-3. 
  2. ^ Tononi, G; Koch, C. (2015). "Consciousness: Here, there and everywhere?" (PDF). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B. 
  3. ^ Danko Nikolić (2015). "Practopoiesis: Or how life fosters a mind". Journal of Theoretical Biology. 373: 40–61. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2015.03.003. 
  4. ^ University of Copenhagen (24 January 2007). "Thinking With The Spinal Cord?". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "A Database Of All Things Brainy". 

External links

  • The Human Brain Project Homepage
  • David Eagleman (August 2007). "10 Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain". Discover Magazine. 
  • Dennett D (April 2001). "Are we explaining consciousness yet?". Cognition. 79 (1-2): 221–37. doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(00)00130-X. PMID 11164029. 
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