Tuesday, November 03, 2015


Electrochemical glass -- I don't understand it.

“Electrochemical methods comprise a collection of extremely useful measurement tools for neuroscience. A central feature of these methods is an electrode that provides a surface or interface where some form of a charge-transfer process occurs. This charge-transfer process gives rise to potentials and/or currents that can be measured and related either by theory or by calibration to the concentration of substances in the solution that bathes the electrode.” 

What this means is that the brain (and other nerves throughout the body) works on electrochemical gradients that can somehow be changed by a neuron cell, causing a code for storing information and directing the muscles and organs.  We know a bit about the little leap between cells where the axon (the long filament that reaches over to the next cell) causes a little “spark” or a molecular change, but very little about what’s going on inside the neuron.  

In fact, it was hard to tell much of anything about the actual brain at first, since it just looks like a glob of Jello except not in pretty colors.  The underside seemed to have little differentiations related to mysterious functions, and -- taken as a whole -- there seemed to be three sections: front, middle and the back part attached to the spine.  It seemed clear that they had evolved in order, back to front, but maybe wasn’t so obvious in terms of feedback loops, subtle connections, synergies between one blob and another.

Electric eel by Rifellia

It’s pretty clear that in order to figure out what is going on, the scientists needed first to design ways to detect tiny changes, like ions which are parts of atoms.  (Link is to a YouTube explanation of ions.)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWc3k2723IM  Living things work like batteries: they can make electricity.  Once the equipment that will allow a scientist to detect atom parts is designed, that’s only the beginning.  It will still be a long way to designing equipment that will allow us to make helpful changes in these teeny neuron batteries.  One scientist has fudged the process by using a sea creature that has really big neurons.

Another strategy is just to set for the guinea pigs (frat boys) see-and-react problems that neurons address and see what happens.  Another is to cut out brain parts (or what LOOKS like a brain part, if you can tell one nubbin from another) and see what happens, or to find people who have been accidentally damaged to see what the damage did to them, or to deliberately damage animals and see what happens.  I’m not interested in any of that.  I AM interested in how a cell manages its internal machinery and how it makes molecules that we often use as drugs because they have so much impact.  I notice that the new National Geographic vid on neurology doesn’t seem interested in the plasma solutions in which neurons live, the “inner sea” as some call it, partly because it’s roughly like the sea in which creatures have evolved.  (No bits of floating plastic in the body, or are there?)

What is intriguing me and others is that it appears that our brain “filing system” is created by the code brought to it from the neural network of the body that delivers detection of waves and chemistries and pressures -- what we call the senses.  It is a shock (!) to realize that there are more than two hundred KINDS of detection cells (neurons) and that they may be able to switch what it is they detect.  Almost all of this is unconscious, busy electrical and molecular stuff that we respond to without knowing it.  (Too bad for control freaks.) Only after a lot of sorting, transforming, connecting and discarding, concepts and memories are stored but we don’t quite know how -- I mean INSIDE the cell and as cooperations.  This goes on at many levels from those teeny ions that carry code around to some big muscle that you sit on, like the gluteus maximus.  As they do all this, they create habits and protocols and record them.  But how?

A relatively new blog, "Nautilus" is currently posting a slugfest on this question that even drags the evolution of the elements themselves into the argument!  Compared to much of this work, it's crazy-wild-open!  Neutrons, nuclei, what will evolve next?

This is not Kenner.

That’s not even addressing Kenner’s Question: “What does it MEAN?”  (Kenner was a seminary classmate who asked that all the time.)  When we get to the level of meaning, we’re on what I’m calling the “third step” when an individual begins to share with other people.  Here’s a good link that discusses how hard it is to get your brain to accept new metaphors and categories.

This is a problem because so many people get confused or feel put down, and it makes them mean.  How does a brain realize it’s wrong and then how does it know what new meaning to accept?  It’s all arbitrary.  God does NOT put a finger on your forehead and go ZAP!  Nor is there a machine you can stick your head in and suddenly know. Everyone until recently has thought that brains dealt out neurons like a deck of cards and you were stuck with that, even if you were a really good poker player.  Now we know that the brain is a creature of “experience-based plasticity” -- (creature= an entity that can create because it is plastic) -- and is not just recognizing and playing the cards according to what has worked in the past, but is also adding and subtracting cards from the deck, removing what turns out to be “wrong” and adding in new information cards.  Neurons are constantly, LITERALLY and perceptibly adding and dropping neurons.  The only limit is that brain-case, the skull.

There are animals that have more than one brain.  One of my best dissections in undergrad biology was an angleworm with nine brains arranged along what wasn’t a spine.  Some people have pointed out that intestines originate from the same conceptive proto-cells as the brain and responds to the same hormones and protein messages.  Each length of “tubing” has a sleeve of neuron nets, and therefore they are also electrical and can also make molecules.  That’s my premise.  I haven’t seen research or conclusions, except for a specific Doc who claims the gut is a second brain, operating through the autonomic nervous system which is an emotion-monitoring auxiliary.  Now, most recently, research is showing that the little one-cell dwellers make up a gut biome that can affect thinking and emotion, so they must be coding somehow and sending it to the brain dashboard.  We are so much more than the single identity that our consciousness claims, except in dreams.

There’s a whole other category of body/brain than ions and proteins, et al.  That’s waves.  The brain has waves, the heart has waves, we are vibrating all the time.  The vibes from others engulf us, even the non-humans, and few of us are aware of them except in music.

Swerving, swerving, dancing to the music. . .

Most of the profit in the media is in the instrumentation (platforms and equipment) or at least that’s what people seem to think, but slowly what’s coming around is the need for content.  I suspect there will be a lot of experimentation ahead about how to evade instruments, how to make oneself the instrument, how to make instruments transparent, how to shift point of view without dislocating the illusion and a lot of rather sophisticated stuff that might need mediation by those already initiated.  I’m curious to know what will happen when people like Stephen Pressfield have exhausted the subjects of how to create a plot arc, how to write suspense, and other book techniques.  And I need to figure out where to go to learn more about visual media with no words.  Music is my weakest skill, but my favorite metaphor.

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