In order for implanted neuron devices to successfully be used as a corrective tool for neurological disorders, it is critical that we have an understanding of exactly how the electrical activity between neurons corresponds to actual physical movement of the body.
A Princeton University team recently took electrical measurements in a monkey’s brain suggesting that groups of neurons in the motor cortex (generally near the surface of the top of your brain) controlled complicated physical postures. This is in significant contrast to the prevailing view that these motor neurons only control specific muscles.
This is an interesting new look at brain function because it suggests that small clumps of interconnected neurons can direct much higher-level body function. This might make the barriers to better understanding the brain even higher, since we won’t be able to attribute a single neuron or neuron group directly to a specific part of our body.
So, instead of thinking “this specific neuron that excites a muscle has to talk to this other neuron to excite another muscle, which then has to talk to this other neuron” in order to coordinate the lifting of a finger, we must think more in terms of networks of neurons collectively directing complicated behaviors. It really will become messy if we find different networked groups of neurons controlling the same set of muscles, but resulting in different physical behaviors.