The Unseen Potential of Neurons?

Recently a new Scientific American showed up in the periodicals section at my local library.  Of course, I jumped to read it before my next intellectual endeavor on a book written by an eastern philosopher.  After that I have some books coming my way with poetry and essays.  I’m trying to sense out how to get published being into poetry and essay writing, knowing that I am going to have to drastically change how I write my essays.  My essays tend to have some research involved, and deal with more complex issues.  I want to write to my strengths, but I also want my work to be read.  So I am seeing what I can do on how I can change for an eventual book.  I am not going to change what I am writing for this blog though.  I view this blog as a personal window view into my writing.  I write what I want to write about, and I write it in a way that I like.  What I am disappointed this most about this blog, is my writing stems from the same format.  I read something cool, and then I write about it.  I feel like I can do that with some ease, so now I have to branch on.  Considering how my money situation is, I would take an adult education course on writing, but we have to save as much money as we can.  I am just going to have to find my own way.

And well, time to start talking about this really cool article that I read.  It really made me ask more questions about how neurons behave.

Quiroga, Rodrigo, Itzak Fried, and Christof Koch. “Brain Cells for Grandmother.” Scientific American. 02 2013: 31-35. Print.

The article talks about the accepted view that when information is encoded into memory, everything to do with that memory, the person, the environment, or even concepts that you learned, are encoded in a network of neurons that span in the millions.  To cut a lot of what the article says, they then are able to look at individual neurons using technology to monitor seizures with epileptic patients.  Certain tasks are designed to elicit a memory induced response, and they are finding that only individual neurons can house a substantial amount of information, especially considering that these neurons are used again in other memories to store concepts, or different aspects of a completely different memory.  And the amount of neurons in these networks are in the thousands.  It doesn’t take nearly as much nerve power as scientists once perceived, they are finding.

What I am wondering is, how do neurons store and pass their information?  As I understand it, it is the network of neurons that encodes a memory, not just one.  However, the neurons in the circuit could be members of other circuits.  So how do they differentiate?  The only way I see how a neuron passes this information is to play so to speak with the electrical current it produces.  What I mean by that, I wonder if the neuron changes the voltage, amperage, or frequency of the electrical pulse.  This is a lot of hardware in the computer industry work.  Your network card is receiving pulses of electrical current, with different frequencies, as well as pulsation.  A certain index is created and programed in the hardware, to correlate the various frequencies and pulsations into 1’s and 0’s.  I am thinking neurons operate similarly.  Part of the different current produced, is also done by neurotransmitters.  I am sure they effect the current.  The precise current opens precisely the stored information inside the cell.  I need to read more to figure out how neurons store their information.  If it is known how information is stored and sent across the synaptic cleft, where the information is encoded again.  If that is all figured out.  That would be a grand leap on the understanding of the human brain.

The first way if this could be figured out, is if certain circuits could be determined in providing a person great turmoil or pain in their lives.  For example, a person’s OCD, or social anxiety, to even empathy.  If scientists know how the information is stored, and can encode that information in individual cells of a neural network, they could essentially reprogram the whole circuit.  Insert new data into the neural circuit, thereby changing the very nature of the circuit.  Not sure all that would happen, but it would make sense if their symptoms abated.  Another way this could turn the tide, is if we make progress in selective gene therapy.  When the cells divide, there is hopefully a new genome inside that cell, with new instructions on making proteins.  If this could be used to change the the way information is stored, new information may be encoded due to the new genome.  And, it would be possible to alter genes for a healthier neuron as well (I read an article stating there are more unhealthy neurons in patients with mental disorders compared to people who have no such disorders).  This also, could change thinking on the biological level.

I guess now that I think about it, science will be able to program a brain if they really wanted to, in the future.  A couple has a baby, and then asks for its genome.  A genome is presented (which is possible today by the way) and a genetics counselor will help the couple determine what genes are to be replaced by a better form of that gene, or discarded entirely.  The baby’s genome is on file.

The baby is born genetically with the best chance to be successful in life.

As with any environment, as the boy ages he is showing a multitude of varieties on how the genes are being expressed.  With constant financial stress, the ever subtle fear and anger is constantly there.  In his expression, his fight or flight system is desensitized.  When there is a flight situation or a fight situation, there is a wider spectrum of activity in the amygdala, amplifying his anxiety induced systems.  An anxiety disorder comes to fruition.  In our day and age, with the aid of psychotropic medicines and cognitive behavioral therapy, biologically and logically the thinking of the anxiety disorder is analyzed.  The change in thinking changes the data that the neurons store and transfer.  In the future, they could skip the CBT and reprogram the circuit(s) that are causing the disorder.

Just some thinking on my own.  I am not licensed in any of this, so just understand it is from my understandings.  So I am sure there are some inaccuracies, but hey, I enjoy writing my thoughts out.

Let me know what you guys think!


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