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Neuron doctrine

DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-W057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

The neuron doctrine refers to the idea that neurons are the fundamental units of the nervous system and that understanding the activity of these cells is all that is needed to understand the brain. Importantly, the doctrine holds that not only are neurons structurally and functionally discrete, but they also have very specific connectivity, which determines how they signal one another. This notion has supported much of neuroscience research throughout the twentieth century, with its focus on uncovering the anatomical, physiological, and chemical properties of neurons central to their function. It also underlies most current approaches to neural network research, which assumes that discrete units connected in highly specific ways give rise to complex behaviors in biological and artificial nervous systems. However, we now know that the brain also uses patterns of neural activity averaged across groups of neurons to process information. In addition, information from genes, glial cells, and cellular structure affects neuronal responses. Our view of what it means to be a cell and how cells interact with the world has gotten much more complicated since the 1800s. But an approximation of the neuron doctrine remains useful in guiding research today.

Citing this article:
Hardcastle, Valerie Gray. Neuron doctrine, 2017, doi:10.4324/0123456789-W057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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