Are Bigger Network Nodes Better?

Friday, March 4th, 2011 by Antonio Manzalini

Variation in brain volume (or mass) across animals may range from a whale’s brain (up to 9 kg with over 200 billion neurons) to human brain (1,4 kg with about 85 billion neurons), to bee’s brain (1 mm3 volume for a million neurons). Nevertheless brain size might be less related with cognitive capabilities than generally assumed.

A bee, for example, can visit about one hundred flowers in a day: all combinations of colours, shapes, and odours of the flowers are associated with rewards (nectar). The association process is dynamical and the stored information is updated by a wonderful and simple neuron machinery capable of learning fast (faster than human brain) and reliably. Amazingly, 1mm3 of brain can control about 60 hard-wired behaviour patterns.

Please have a look at this nice paper.

Lars Chittka and Jeremy Niven “Are Bigger Brains Better?”

Current Biology 19, R995–R1008, November 17, 2009

http://www.cogs.indiana.edu/spackled/2010readings/Chittka_Big%20brains_2009.pdf

Larger brains, in summary, are mostly a consequence of larger neurons, which are necessary in bigger animals for biophysical constraints. Normally, they also contain greater replication of basic neuronal circuits, adding precision to sensory activities, more parallel processing and greater storage capacity. “Bigger sense organs necessitate larger amounts of neural tissue to evaluate the information, providing more sensitivity and detail, but not necessarily higher intelligence”.

Modularity and interconnectivity are likely to be more important.

This is how I like to see future networks: swarms of lightweight modular autonomic nodes highly interconnected.

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