Formation of Brain Maps: Nurture Versus Nature
In the brain, neurons are organized according to their functional properties into multiple maps such as retinotopic, ocular dominance, orientation preference, direction of motion, and others. To a large degree, these maps are reflections of connections between neurons. Two factors contribute to the formation of neuronal connections, and, by extension, of the brain maps.
First, much of the connectivity is determined by the rules specified in the genome and is therefore hardwired. Second, connections can show a large degree of plasticity that allows integrating the organism’s experience into neural networks. Formation of brain maps during neural development therefore provides the system in which the centuries-old debate between nature and nurture can be settled quantitatively. I will present our latest efforts to define interactions between genes and experience within a condensed matter-like theory.