Scientists have discovered a never-before-seen pattern of cell messaging occurring in the human brain. These findings imply that our brains may be a more powerful computational unit than we thought.
at the beginning of last year Researchers from institutions in Germany and Greece report a mechanism in the brain’s cortical cells that generates entirely new ‘grading’ signals on their own. This can give each neuron another way to perform their logical functions.
By measuring electrical activity in sections of tissue removed during surgery in epilepsy patients and analyzing their structure using fluorescence microscopy. Neuroscientists have found that each cell in the cortex uses not only the common sodium ions to ̵6;fire’ but also calcium.
This combination of positively charged ions produces never-before-seen voltage waves known as calcium-mediated dCaAPs.
the brain, especially the human brain It is often compared with computers. Comparisons are limited but at some level They work the same way.
Both use the power of voltage to perform various operations. in computer It is in the form of a relatively simple flow of electrons through a junction known as a transistor.
in nerve cells The signal takes the form of waves of open and closed channels that exchange charged particles such as sodium, chloride and potassium. This pulse of flowing ions is called the action potential.
instead of transistors Neurons chemically manipulate these messages at the ends of branches called dendrites.
Humboldt University neuroscientist Matthew Larkum told Walter Beckwith at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in January 2020.
Dendrites are the traffic lights of our nervous system. If action potential is important enough It can then be passed on to other nerves, which can block or forward messages.
This is the logical foundation of our brain – ripples of voltage that can communicate together in two ways: and text (if x and y is triggered, the message will be forwarded); or an or text (if x or y is triggered, the message will be forwarded)
It is possible nowhere more complicated than in the thick and wrinkled part of the human central nervous system. The deeper second and third cerebral cortex is exceptionally thick. Packed with branches that perform high-level commands. which we connect with our feelings, thoughts, and motor control.
The researchers closely studied the tissues from these layers. by connecting the cells to a device called somatodendritic patch clamp to send active potential up and down each neuron record their signal
“There was a ‘Eureka’ moment when we first saw the action potential of dendritic,” Larkum said.
to ensure that any discovery It doesn’t just happen to people with epilepsy. They then double-checked their results with a handful of samples taken from brain tumors.
While the team has already carried out similar experiments with mice. The kind of signals they noticed that were buzzing. Through human cells are very different.
more importantly When they inject drugs into cells that contain a sodium blocker called tetrodotoxin. They also found signs Only blocking calcium calms everything down.
The search for the potential for calcium-mediated action is interesting enough. But modeling of this sensitive new type of signal working in the cortex revealed a surprise.
besides logic and and or-Function type Each of these neurons can act as a ‘special’. or (XOR) junction, which only allows signals when other signals are rated in a certain way.
“Traditional XOR The operation was considered to require a network solution. the researchers wrote.
More work needs to be done to see how dCaAPs work in all neurons and in living systems. Not to mention that it was something that humans or similar mechanisms evolved elsewhere in the animal kingdom.
Technology also looks to our own nervous system to inspire better hardware. Knowing that each of our cells has a few additional tips might lead to new ways to make network transistors.
How this new logic tool squeezed into a single neuron translates into higher functions is a question for future researchers to answer.
This research is published in science.
A version of this article was originally published in January 2020.