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Humans are different

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Humans are different

The popular article in Medicalxpress (see this) tells about highly interesting observation described in the Nature article “Allometric rules for mammalian cortical layer 5 neuron biophysics” by Mark Harnett (see this).

The finding is that the density of voltage gated channels in the human brain is dramatically lower than in other mammalian brains.

  1. The neuronal system studied was layer 5 pyramidal neurons. Dendrites of these neurons were considered. Densities of voltage gated channels per neuron volume and per brain volume were studied. The ion channels studied were Na and K channels. The channels considered are ion pumps and need metabolic energy.

10 mammalian species were studied so that cortical thickness and neuron size were the varying parameters. As the neuron size increases, the density of neurons decreases.

  • The first finding was that the density of ion channels for the neuron increases as the neuron size increases. The density of ion channels per brain volume was however found to be constant.
  • Humans were found to be an exception. The density of the channels per brain volume is dramatically reduced. The proposed interpretation is that this reduces the amount of metabolic energy needed to generate action potentials and the metabolic energy is used for other purposes. Before continuing, it is good to recall some basic facts about neurons. Synapses, dendrites, and myelination are the basic notions needed if one tries to understand these findings. It is enough to notice that most synaptic contacts are between axons to dendrites but that almost any other combinations are possible. Myelination is mostly for axons and only rarely for dendrites. The dendrites of the excitatory pyramidal cells studied in the article are profusely decorated with dendritic spines.

    Could the TGD view about the brain allow us to interpret these findings? Why would the density of the voltage gated ionic channels be smaller for pyramidal dendrites? How could this relate the evolutionary leap leading to the emergence of humans?

    1. In the TGD framework, nerve pulses do not mediate information between neurons but make possible transfer of information between them using dark photon signals.

    Nerve pulse patterns however generate dark Josephson radiation transferred to the magnetic body (MB) of the brain. Dark Josephson radiation is characterized by length and time scales proportional the value of heff, which is quite large implying that the wavelengths λ= cheff/E of dark photons with energy of visible photon can be of order Earth size.

    This gives rise to a temporal variation transformed to a sequence of pulses if the receiving end at MB has cyclotron resonance frequency at the average value of Josephson frequency. The outcome at MB is analogous to a nerve pulse pattern.

  • In the TGD framework ion pumps or rather, the associated transversal dark flux tubes, serve as Josephson junctions producing generalized dark Josephson radiation propagating along flux tubes to the MB of the brain. This radiation is frequency modulated by the reversals of the membrane potential induced by nerve pulse pattern that would code the information represented by the nerve pulse pattern.
  • Myelination divides axons to pieces of length about 100 μ m having 1 μm long unmyelinated portions, which contain Na and K channels. This suggests that dark photons can propagate at least over a distance of 100 μm and even over longer distances. The minimal interpretation is that the function of the action potentials at voltage gated channels is to send information to MB.
  • Second function could be to act as a relay connecting the flux tubes of presynaptic neuron and postsynaptic neuron to a single flux tube acting as a longer waveguide. Keeping the communication lines open only when they are used could save energy as it does in human communications.

  • In the TGD framework, myelination would save energy since no action potential is needed in the myelinated portion of the axon (the intra-brain signal would consist of dark photons) so that the number of ion pumps would be dramatically reduced. Action potential would be produced only in the unmyelinated portions of axons with length about 1 μm and generate a modulated Josephson radiation to the MB of the brain. This reduces the spatial resolution of Josephson signalling to the MB but implies also a higher abstraction level and spatial patterns in longer length scales.
  • Only vertebrates have myelinated axons, which suggest that their emergence was a cognitive leap involving emergence of layers of MB with larger heff and larger scale. The emergence of EEG mediating information to layers of MB with size scale of Earth for 10 Hz alpha band would relate to this leap.

    Also dendrites can be myelinated but the fraction of myelinated dendrites is small. For instance, myelinated dendrites can appear in the olfactory system. Therefore the idea that myelination of dendrites in the human brain could explain the finding does not look plausible.

    Why would the dendrites of the olfactory system be myelinated? Myelination would reduce dramatically the spatial resolution of the olfactory percept at MB. Olfactory sense is indeed very rough and one cannot speak about spatial distribution of a smell. Does this mean that the world of smells is much richer for invertebrates? What could the reduction of the density of voltage gated channels mean? Why would the distances between voltage gated channels be longer for humans and what does this imply?

    1. The TGD inspired proposal is that humans differ from other mammals in that the value of heff involved is considerably larger for some neurons. In fact, the TGD inspired model for the generation of language assumes that the value of heff for MBs of language genes is considerably larger than for other genes.
    2. The average distance between voltage gated ionic pumps defines a spatial resolution scale and is a good candidate for the minimum wavelength λ assignable to a signal propagating along the dendrite. For an ordinary photon, λ defines energy, which must be above the thermal energy at physiological temperatures. This minimum energy is rather near to the minimal energy of the ordinary Josephson photons associated with membrane potential (about .05 eV) and the corresponding wavelength is 14.8 μm.

    Also other kinds of signala can propagate along the axon. The inspired model for nerve pulse proposes that nerve pulses could correspond to perturbations of oscillating Josephson current which in the rest state corresponds to a propagating sequence of Sine-Gordon solitons mathematically analogous to a sequence of rotating gravitational penduli. Nerve pulse corresponds to a perturbation, which kicks some pendul from rotational to an oscillating motion and this perturbation propagates along the axon with the same velocity as nerve pulse.

  • The information coded to the Josephson radiation is frequency modulated by nerve pulse patterns. Also the spatial pattern of Josephson radiation characterized by the density of voltage gated channels along the flux tube contains information. The density of voltage gates, whose transversal flux tubes act as Josephson junctions characterizes the length scale resolution of the spatial variation at the receiving part of MB, say magnetic flux tube. MB receives a collection of Josephson radiation signals from the points of axons containing a voltage gated channel.
  • The spatial resolution of the percept produced at MB produced by Josephson radiation would be reduced for humans. This could be also understood as an abstraction. High spatial resolution would be needed only for local percepts in the scale of neuron soma and would mean generation of useless information and energy waste for percepts in longer scales.
  • The natural guess is that the resolution scale is proportional to ℏeff,B at intra-brain flux tubes in turn proportional to ℏeff,MB for the flux tubes at the MB of brain having quantal length scales much longer than brain size. The range of variation of the spatial resolution could correspond to the variation of ordinary photon wavelengths between visible wavelengths (of order μm) and IR wavelengths of order 14.8 μm. Note however that the lengths of myelinated portions are about 100 μm.

    For a summary of earlier postings see Latest progress in TGD.

    Articles and other material related to TGD.


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