The effects on the brain of playing video games are still hotly debated, but the consoles themselves may help neuroscientists. This microprocessor – a sort of simple computer brain – had its outer plastic layers dissolved in hot sulphuric acid, revealing its silvery silicon circuitry. Because it was designed by humans, researchers can work out how the circuits contribute to different functions, like playing Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. In comparison, many of the brain’s design features – connections between sets of neurons that drive our behaviours – are unknown. Neuroscientists often use automated software that try to spot complex networks between brain cells, but many of these approaches fail even to recognise the simpler networks in this computer chip. Some researchers are now arguing that testing analytical methods on microprocessors first stands a better chance of teasing out the brain’s secrets.
Written by John Ankers
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