Thursday, November 11, 2021

Humans are different

The realization that saltation as a conduction over the myelinated portions of the axon is still poorly understood phenomenon inspired a careful reanalysis of the earlier TGD inspired visions of nerve pulse conduction, EEG and of brain based on the new view about space-time, the notion of the magnetic body carrying heff>h phases behaving like dark matter, and the zero energy ontology (ZEO) based quantum measurement theory extending to a theory of consciousness.

The TGD view about nerve pulse replaces nerve pulse as a wave assignable to a generalized Josephson junction formed by lipid layers of the cell membrane for which Josephson frequency fc is replaced by the sum fc+Δ Ec, where Δ Ec is the difference between cyclotron frequencies for transversal flux tubes at the different sides of the axon.

What propagates is the deviation of membrane potential below the critical value for the generation of action potential. There would be no action potential in the myelinated portions of the axon and it would be generated only in the non-myelinated portions of length about 1 μm and gives rise to chemical effects and also communicate a signal to the magnetic body if the notion of generalized Josephson junction is accepted.

A test for this picture came from the popular article in Medicalxpress (see this) telling 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.

  2. 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 and neuron allow us to interpret the difference between humans and other mammals? 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?

TGD view about neuron and brain allows us to consider two different but not mutually exclusive explanations for the finding.

  1. The spatial resolution of the percept produced at MB by Josephson radiation would be reduced for humans. This need not be a drawback since it could be also understood as an abstraction. High spatial resolution would be needed only for local percepts in the scale of neuron soma. On longer scales it would mean generation of useless information and metabolic energy waste.

    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.

  2. Suppose that Josephson radiation patterns associated with the myelinated portions of axon define "sentences" and the unmyelinated portions define periods ending these "sentences" by a nerve pulse. Does the notion of "sentence" make sense also for dendrites?

    At least in the case of humans, having a reduced volume density of ion channels, this picture might generalize also to dendrites, which are usually un-myelinated since the myelination is not needed since the dendrites are typically short as compared to axons. If so, the average distance between two ion channels would define length and duration for a "sentence".

    For other mammals than humans, the "sentences" would be very short or the notion of "sentence" would not make sense at all (the spatial extent of the perturbation of the membrane potential would be of the order wavelength of the soliton). Could this reflect the emergence of language in humans? MB would not only receive long "sentences" but also send them back as control commands inducing motor actions and virtual sensory input.

  3. If the communication between pre-and postsynaptic neuron occurs via MB, dendrites would receive "sentences" from the MB of the presynaptic neuron as a feedback. If generalized motor action is in question, BSFR and time reversal would be involved. The action potentials propagate along axons in a single direction, which would reflect a fixed arrow of time. Does the reversed arrow of time imply that the action potentials along dendrites propagate outwards from the cell body?

    According to Wikipedia (see this), dendrites indeed have the ability to send action potentials back into the dendritic arbor. Known as back-propagating action potentials, these signals depolarize the dendritic arbor and provide a crucial component toward synapse modulation and long-term potentiation. Furthermore, a train of back-propagating action potentials artificially generated at the soma can induce a calcium action potential (a dendritic spike) at the dendritic initiation zone in certain types of neurons.

  4. Dendrites are usually unmyelinated. This conforms with the fact that dendrites are much shorter than axons so that myelination is not needed. Myelination would also restrict the number of synaptic contacts. Myelinated dendrites have been however found in the motochords of frog (see this) and in the olfactory bulb (OB) of some mammals, for instance mouse (see this). Their fraction is small.

    Olfactory system (OS) is very interesting in this respect since it represents the oldest parts of CNS. The axons from the nasal cavity to the olfactory bulb (OB), where odours are thought to be processed are unmyelinated as are the axons of invertebrates in general. The axons from the olfactory bulb (OB) to the olfactory cortex (OC) are myelinated. This conforms with the idea that OB corresponds to the oldest part of OS. The TGD interpretation would be OB sends the results of analysis to OC via MB as "sentences".

    OB also can have a small fraction of myelinated dendrites implying a reduction in the number of synaptic contacts. The rule "A→B" → "A→ MB→ B" (signal from A to B in brain goes via MB and involves BSFR at MB) suggests that there is an MB between olfactory epithelium and OB and that some analysis is performed at MB. If so, the myelinated dendrites would correspond to input from MB as long "sentences".

See the article About TGD view of neuron or the chapter with the same title.

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

Articles and other material related to TGD.

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