Does a detailed map of the brain bring me to a greater level of comfort with its vast capabilities? No! If anything it makes me more suspicious. We have learned that a brain has more compartments than there are base pairs of DNA. Knowing that all these compartments exist and interact is not the same as knowing their innermost secrets. The neurons may have matured with little genetic guidance other than what physical form they are to take on based on their location, but their myriad numbers still cannot account for behavior. There are a finite amount of these "boxes," never enough to interpret, decide, react, or dream the infinite possibilities in each category.
In class we get the impression that a single box asks a single question and determines a single answer, which is passed on to the next box along a path. But if there are an infinite number of questions and therefore choices, how can boxes be restricted to one question, and if they are not, how do they select the right question to ask? Is there really some kind of a "language" among the neurons? If so, would it also be used by the sensory neurons to categorize inputs? Finally, it appears from the model we have drawn that the output of a box is a vector--has a specific destination--but in reality a neuron has thousands of connections all along its length, that seem to branch out in all directions. How do neurons recognize and ignore the diffusing signals that do not relate to them, ensuring a single, appropriate final output? Might there be a genetically determined universal hierarchy of importance for this type of decision-making?
Nice thoughts/questions. Indeed we will need to talk about "the innermost secrets" of the boxes, their language (will turn out to be surprisingly uniform). And about how neurons know which others to talk to/listen to. And what (if anything) "organizes" the whole thing. By the way, your intuition is quite good: there are lots of neurons, but even MORE questions, so any one must be involved in lots of them. From which it follows that a given question must .... ? PG