Why Chris Davis is Better at Hitting Home Runs than I Am? (or How All Brains Are the Same and How They Are Different)

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We all have the same brain in the same sense that we all have the same body: every normal human has the same parts with the same design, but there is a lot of variability from one individual to the next. About 100 distinct regions are recognized in the human cortex, and each of these regions has a specific function (like hearing or recognizing faces). Furthermore, neural circuits have the special property of being scalable, which means that bigger regions perform better. The limits of human performance for any given set of abilities, then, are set by the size of the brain regions available for those abilities, and this limitation is especially obvious in those situations where we operate at the edge of what is possible for a human to do.

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Charles F. Stevens studied medicine and biology before taking a faculty position at the University of Washington where he combined theory and experiment to study fundamental mechanisms of spike generation and synaptic transmission. During his time in Seattle he spent a sabbatical year in Leiden doing statistical physics. After Seattle, Stevens moved to Yale Medical School where he started work on properties of hippocampal synapses. Stevens then took a position the Salk Institute where his work shifted to the study of mechanisms of neurotransmitter release at central synapses. About ten years ago, he made a transition to a mainly theoretical approach—always data based—to discover the design principles that govern neuronal computation.