Monday, May 30, 2011
Brain cells and galaxies.
The brain is the ultimate frontier. A universe within a universe. The image above shows a structural comparison between a brain cell, with its intricate connections of axons and dendrites, and a computer reconstructed map of the Universe at the level of clusters of galaxies.When observed at medium distances (in the range of few hundred of millions of light years) the Universe shows an intricate network of filaments, voids, nodes, hubs and interconnections. The brain, even if made of individual cells is highly connected.
Clusters of neurons organize at different levels forming specialized structures that can be identified both because they are anatomically evident but also because they reveal themselves through scanning techniques, that show the interconnectivity and interplay between brain regions. As far as we know, the similar structured filaments of the clusters of galaxies have not a functional or connectivity role but they are a consequence of how the universe was formed and how matter (in particular the mysterious dark matter) is distributed.
The luminous, garden variety matter of the universe is shaped along dense regions of dark matter. But the similarity between these two realms of reality, the inner and outer universe, is not just a superficial resemblance of forms but it hints to laws of physics that shape both the intricate network of the brain and the large scale structures of matter and energy unfolding, expanding and interacting in the physical universe. This image is a perfect illustration of the inspiration behind this blog: to show the discoveries and exploration of the inner universe in the context of a more cosmic view that understands the brain as ultimate product of an evolving Universe, governed by the fundamental laws of physics.