On and off switches in the brain

Ahmed A. Moustafa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate/opinionResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


The brain seems to have evolved one class of neurons that initiate certain behaviors, and another class of neurons that do the opposite (i.e., inhibit these behaviors). In other words, our brains seem to be equipped with different On and Off switch neurons. These neurons are found across many domains, including motor, cognitive, emotional, sleep, and others. This is contrasted to evolving one type of neurons that can do both functions (e.g., motor neurons that can initiate movement where active and inhibit movement when inactive). First, I review neuroscience experiments reporting On and Off switch neurons. Second, I discuss why this is a good design for implementing many behavioral processes than just relying on one kind of neurons that regulate opposing behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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