Of toasters and molecular ticker tapes

Konrad P. Kording

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Experiments in systems neuroscience can be seen as consisting of three steps: (1) selecting the signals we are interested in, (2) probing the system with carefully chosen stimuli, and (3) getting data out of the brain. Here I discuss how emerging techniques in molecular biology are starting to improve these three steps. To estimate its future impact on experimental neuroscience, I will stress the analogy of ongoing progress with that of microprocessor production techniques. These techniques have allowed computers to simplify countless problems; because they are easier to use than mechanical timers, they are even built into toasters. Molecular biology may advance even faster than computer speeds and has made immense progress in understanding and designing molecules. These advancements may in turn produce impressive improvements to each of the three steps, ultimately shifting the bottleneck from obtaining data to interpreting it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1002291
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Modeling and Simulation


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