Tag Archives: Brain

The 90% of our Brains we didn’t know we used

We’ve all heard how we supposedly use only 10% of our brains.  I’ve always thought that meant there was some latent higher structure in our brains we just needed to figure out how to tap into.  I really never questioned that assumption until now, and it doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary perspective why the brain would be hyper-developed relative to our present use of it; the reality is even more fascinating.

The excerpts below from an article in this month’s Discover Magazine Entitled “The Dark Matter of the Human Brain” by Carl Zimmer raises the question: If there are in the brain cells which outnumber neurons 10:1 and which code and transmit information via biochemical transmission rather than by electric transmission as in neurons, can it be said that the brain has in reality two information systems at work?  Zimmer uses the analogy of the Astrocytes as an analog network and the Neurons as a digital network.  We know from our experience with the evolution of computers that both analog and digital networks have their own pros and cons.  The question in terms of the Brain is why are there both?  Does one pre-date the other in the evolutionary timeline? Do their functions overlap or are they distinct?

One interesting suggestion mentioned below is that the analog network of Astrocytes may be responsible for “our creative and imaginative existence as human beings.”  As with technology, while the digital experience conveys more information more quickly with far less physical structure, there will always be a quality inherent in analog transmission which digital lacks.  The nature of the digital transition via discrete packets of distinct quanta, however complex, can never match the continuity and depth of analog waves in their richness and tone.  Of course, the drawback to analog as we know from the example of television is that the picture on your analog TV is merely an imperfect representation or approximation of the original source, while a digital picture is an exact replica of the original.

If we take this metaphor one step further can we suppose that the brain utilizes its Astrocytes analog network in such activities such as memory and emotion, where the natures of those activities are by definition representations? Can we then suppose that the digital network of neurons could be responsible for activities in the brain which are more exact and rapid such as computation and reasoning?

Granted this is a blatant oversimplification of an area of brain science which is not yet fully understood, however the presence of these two systems in the brain could go along way in our understanding of the supposed duality of human experience.

The Dark Matter of the Human Brain

Meet the forgotten 90 percent of your brain: glial cells, which outnumber your neurons ten to one. And no one really knows what they do.

By Carl Zimmer

“Astrocytes—named for their star like rays, which reach out in all directions—are the most abundant of all Glial Cells and therefore the most abundant of all the cells in the brain. They are also the most mysterious. A single astrocyte can wrap its rays around more than a million synapses. Astrocytes also fuse to each other, building channels through which molecules can shuttle from cell to cell.   …Astrocytes, like neurons, can react to neurotransmitters—but instead of electricity, the cells produce waves of charged calcium atoms.

…(Astrocytes) have at least some of the requirements for processing information the way neurons do. Alfonso Araque, a neuroscientist at the Cajal Institute in Spain (found) that two different stimulus signals can produce two different patterns of calcium waves (that is, two different responses) in an astrocyte. When they gave astrocytes both signals at once, the waves they produced in the cells was not just the sum of the two patterns. Instead, the astrocytes produced an entirely new pattern in response. That’s what neurons—and computers, for that matter—do.

If astrocytes really do process information, that would be a major addition to the brain’s computing power. After all, there are many more astrocytes in the brain than there are neurons. Perhaps, some scientists have speculated, astrocytes carry out their own computing. Instead of the digital code of voltage spikes that neurons use, astrocytes may act more like an analog network, encoding information in slowly rising and falling waves of calcium. In his new book, The Root of Thought, neuroscientist Andrew Koob suggests that conversations among astrocytes may be responsible for “our creative and imaginative existence as human beings.”

There is something marvelous in the fact that we barely understand what most of the cells in our brains are doing. Beginning in the 1930s, astronomers realized that all the things they could see through their telescopes—the stars, the galaxies, the nebulas—make up just a small fraction of the total mass of the universe. The rest, known as dark matter, still defies their best attempts at explanation. Between our ears, it turns out, each of us carries a personal supply of dark matter as well.”

Astrocytes Change During Postnatal Brain Development

Astrocytes Change During Postnatal Brain Development

The Brain is an Electrical Organ

The brain is an electrical organ.  That is a fact.  Another fact is that one of the fundamental forces of the universe is electro-magnetism.  The following article from MSNBC entitled Magnetic device aims to treat depression patients raises some fundamental questions in my mind as to the nature of our brains and our environment.

 

As stated in Wikipedia  “A changing magnetic field produces an electric field… Similarly, a changing electric field generates a magnetic field.”

 

We can witness this force in something as mundane as a microphone or a speaker.  The same force is also surrounding the Earth with a field created from the independent movement of the liquid iron core of the planet. 

 

Some questions:

 

  • If both the Earth and our brains are producing electromagnetic fields can the two interact?
  • If our brains produce an electromagnetic field do all the animals of the earth as well?
  • How do people’s electromagnetic fields interact with one another?
  • Can the electromagnetic field of our brains extend outside of the physical body?
  • Can we control the electromagnetic fields which our brains produce? To what effect?
  • Do the modern electric devices we use such as computers and cell phones affect our electromagnetic brains? 
  • We know magnetism can act remotely in space, and that electricity can travel very quickly given a conductor. Are there parallels in our brains? Can this explain powers of telepathy and extra-sensory perception?
  • Is there a correlation between the electromagnetic field of the earth and the chemistry in people’s brains?
  • Does the shifting of the magnetic north and south poles affect us?
  • Are we surrounded by an electromagnetic field that is influenced by our moods, emotions, and mental state?
  • Can we use the field to influence our own moods, emotions, and mental state?
  • What are the physical effects on and from the electromagnetic field?
  •  Is our consciousness an electromagnetic field?  If so, how is it similar to and different from those of animals and the earth itself?
  • Does the movement of all the matter in the universe create its own electromagnetic field? Does this field approach what we would conceive of as God, or a universal consciousness?

 

The Brain as an electrical organ

The Brain as an electrical organ