[Paleopsych] the embryo's balancing act
HowlBloom at aol.com
HowlBloom at aol.com
Thu Jul 22 13:28:40 UTC 2004
Below is an intriguing bit of research, one that seems to demonstrate how the
body keeps its balance, or, to put it more esoterically, how the community of
over 100 billion neurons in the brain and body keep from going over the
edge. Wait, that wasn’t the esoteric wording I had in mind. In addition to
demonstrating mechanisms that zero in on a golden mean, mechanisms that act like
catchers in the rye, this research shows a homeostatic mechanism at work. Oh,
that cellular neighbor of ours is passing to great an electrical current and
threatening to grab undue influence and to skew the consensus that makes our
community (the community of neurons) a survival mechanism? Ok, girls, let’s go
to work, let’s reengineer or reorient our activities a bit, and let’s put out
inhibitory chemicals, tranquillizers to calm this obstrerous shouter, this
electrically-hyperactive cell down.
Hmmm, now we’ve got the opposite problem: a cell among us that puts out too
little electrical activity. We’ve got a cripple, a limper. Let’s retool
ourselves or readjust our output to manufacture some some uppers, some stimulants
that will bring her up to speed.
The community of neurons this study is peeping-tomming seems to have a norm it
’s trying collectively to achieve. That’s a very teleological and
anthropomorphic way of putting it. But that’s one reason the German biologists of the
19th century showed a better understanding of the approach to a grand unified
theory of everything, than did the physicists cooking up their
steam-engine-based notion of thermodynamics. Time has more than just an arrow in an embryo.
Not only is the idea that time is reversible absurd when your starting point
is an embryo, but there’s a goal unfolding, one that came from a vast
condensation of past experience stored in the genome, the protoplasm, and in the
fabric of the cell’s walls, but one that points at a teleos, a future. How did the
future get into the present? Why is it lurking there? Why does this seem a
cosmos with a loose but certain goal? A cosmos with plans it may not know,
plans it discovers as it goes along, but plans and intentions, will and
motivation, nonetheless? Howard
Retrieved July 21, 2004, from the World Wide Web
Science News Online Week of July 3, 2004; Vol. 166, No. 1 Neurons take
charge to change messages Bruce Bower Neurons in a developing embryo respond to
changes in their own electrical activity by altering the types of chemical
messengers that they produce, a new study suggests. This finding counters the
traditional scientific view that genes alone determine which neurotransmitters a
brain cell synthesizes. A team led by Laura N. Borodinsky and Nicholas C.
Spitzer, both of the University of California, San Diego, first measured
distinctive patterns of electrical activity in each of four types of embryonic neurons
in the spinal cords of frogs. The researchers then changed the electrical
activity in such cells in other frog embryos by genetically engineering them to
pass either more or less current through their membranes. Those alterations
that led to boosts in electrical activity also led to a surge in the number of
cells producing inhibitory neurotransmitters that slow down neurons .
Conversely, changes that caused electrical activity to decline triggered a rise in the
number of neurons generating excitatory neurotransmitters that ramp up other
cells' actions. The scientists report their findings in the June 3 Nature.
Despite undergoing these electrical and chemical changes, all the neurons
retained their distinctive structures. The study indicates that some embryonic
neurons can switch the chemical signals they produce in response to changes in
their own electrical activity or that of nearby cells, the investigators theorize.
It's not yet known whether shifts in electrical activity similarly influence
neurotransmitter release throughout embryonic nervous systems or in adult
neurons. If you have a comment on this article that you would like considered
for publication in Science News, send it to editors at sciencenews.org. Please
include your name and location. References: Borodinsky, L.N. . . . and N.C.
Spitzer. 2004. Activity-dependent homeostatic specification of transmitter
expression in embryonic neurons. Nature 429(June 3):523-530. Abstract available at
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature02518. Further Readings: Goulding, M. 2004. A
matter of balance. Nature 429(June 3):515-517. Sources: Laura N. Borodinsky
Neurobiology Section Division of Biological Sciences Center for Molecular
Genetics University of California, San Diego La Jolla, CA 92093-0357 Nicholas C.
Spitzer Neurobiology Section Division of Biological Sciences Center for
Molecular Genetics University of California, San Diego La Jolla, CA 92093-0357
http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040703/note11.asp From Science News, Vol.
166, No. 1, July 3, 2004, p. 13. Copyright (c) 2004 Science Service. All
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Faculty
Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive
editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see:
for two chapters from
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History,
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang
to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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