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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

February 2011, Vol. 23, No. 2, Pages 267-276
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21477)
© 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Packet Switching Brain
Article PDF (319.21 KB)

The computer metaphor has served brain science well as a tool for comprehending neural systems. Nevertheless, we propose here that this metaphor be replaced or supplemented by a new metaphor, the “Internet metaphor,” to reflect dramatic new network theoretic understandings of brain structure and function. We offer a “weak” form and a “strong” form of this metaphor: The former suggests that structures and processes unique to Internet-like architectures (e.g., domains and protocols) can profitably guide our thinking about brains, whereas the latter suggests that one particular feature of the Internet—packet switching—may be instantiated in the structure of certain brain networks, particularly mammalian neocortex.