Brain Theory pp 229-230 | Cite as

Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts: A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity

Conference paper


The classical paper by McCulloch and Pitts on “a logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity” had an enormous impact on the development of brain theory in the broadest sense. It appeared in 1943 and was the starting point for many theoretical investigations up to the present day: its basic idea was that the activation of a neuron inside a brain stands for the actual truth of a proposition about the outside world. Elementary propositions about the outside world are verified through sensors. The neurons to which these sensors are connected may themselves represent more complicated combinations of these propositions. Since it is possible to implement the logical connections not, and, and or by means of neural connections and appropriate thresholds of the neurons, one can represent every conceivable finite logical combination of the elementary propositions in a neural network.


  1. Carnap R (1938) The logical syntax of language. Harcourt-Brace, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Hilbert D, Ackermann W (1927) Grundzüge der theoretischen Logik. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  3. Hubel DH, Wiesel TN (1963) Receptive fields of cells in striate cortex of very young, visually inexperienced kittens. J Neurophysiol 27:994Google Scholar
  4. Hubel DH, Wiesel TN (1977) Functional architecture of macaque monkey visual cortex. (Ferrier Lecture) Proc R Soc London Ser B 198:1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kleene SC (1956) Representation of events in nerve nets and finite automata. In: Shannon CE, McCarthy J (eds) Automata studies, vol 34. Princeton Univ Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  6. Lettvin JY, Maturana HR, McCulloch WS, Pitts W (1959) What the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain. Proc IRE 47:1940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. MacGregor RJ, Lewis ER (1977) Neural modelling. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. McCulloch WS, Pitts W (1943) A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity. Bull Math Biophys 5:115CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Palm
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institut für Biologische KybernetikTübigenGermany

Personalised recommendations