February 7, 2011

Brain's electrical fields: feature, not any bug

Caltech researchers have found that the electric fields of the brain are not just any mere by product of neuronal electrical activity but that they actually provide feedback to neurones and is an important part of the cognitive process.

In the words of lead researcher Costas Anastassiou:

... while active neurons give rise to extracellular fields, the same fields feed back to the neurons and alter their behavior.

So far, neural communication has been thought to occur at localized machines, termed synapses. Our work suggests an additional means of neural communication through the extracellular space independent of synapses.

Importantly external electric fields as weak as 1 mV/mm alter the behavior of neurones. Typically mammalian brains have fields of 2-3 mV/mm or more, what implies that they are actually affecting the brain's behavior internally.

An open question is whether electric fields external to our bodies such as those produced by all types of machines, as well as electric and telecommunication installations, do have an effect in our brains and which one. Even the Earth has its own significant electromagnetic field which interacts with the also powerful Solar one in barely researched ways.

Source: Science Daily.

Ref. paper: Costas A. Anastassiou et al., Ephaptic coupling of cortical neurons. Nature Neuroscience, 2011. Pay per view.

2 comments:

  1. Fifty years ago the Soviets started beaming microwaves at the US Embassy in Moscow. Embassy personnel complained of headaches and cognitive problems. This continued throughout the cold war. The Soviets never provided an explanation, but the leading theory was that it was a program to cause mental confusion in the US diplomats (and spies) by effecting the electric fields of their brains.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,911755,00.html

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  2. Russian and Soviet scientists have always worked in fields considered somewhat paranormal in the West, specially in regards to electromagnetism.

    In some cases they were/are surely true freaks and con men but in other cases they are probably just not as prejudiced as the sometimes too narrow and dogmatic Western idea of science.

    I am persuaded that electromagnetism will eventually be demonstrated to play a much more greater role than we acknowledge in a broad range of phenomena, from earth and space weather to human and animal psychology.

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