After a longer than long hiatus, it is good to return to the old News of the Weird files again. Let’s get started:
Over a decade of experiments on patients awaiting brain surgery for severe epilepsy, researchers at UCLA have found that the brain’s 100 billion neurons include some so specialized that they respond only to a single stimulus, the Wall Street Journal reported… Researchers have identified single neurons that fire only in response to Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Halle Berry, Mother Teresa, the Beatles, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Luke Skywalker, and Jennifer Aniston (but not when pictured with Brad Pitt). Last year researchers found a neuron in one patient that would spring to life only when presented with a clip of the The Simpsons. Such neurons, they say, fire whether the concept is presented through pictures or words. And while monitoring a new patient, Dr. Quian Quiroga found a neuron that responded only to him.
From the WSJ article:
The research team reported that a single human neuron could recognize a personality through pictures, text or the sound of a name — no matter how that person was presented…
Each neuron appeared to join together pieces of sensory information into a single mental impression. The researchers believe these cells are evidence that it only takes a simple circuit of neurons to encode an idea, perception or memory.
Okay, so it’s not weird, but I do find it utterly fascinating. I know The Simpsons have been a great stimulus personally. Jennifer Anniston… not so much. (No comment on Halle Berry, though.)
From “News of the Weird”, uncredited editor/writer. October 29th, 2009 edition of the Chicago Reader, p. 81.