[ExI] Smarter mice

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Fri Dec 12 07:32:50 UTC 2014

James Clement <clementlawyer at gmail.com> , 11/12/2014 8:07 AM:

On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 6:37 PM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

How is that supposed to work? I can imagine that a different glial architecture in a mouse has some effect, but in humans we would just get the same glial architecture. 

Hi Anders, that's of course a good question. Both researchers (husband and wife team) were talking about their interest in increasing human myelin layers, which they analogized to laying down intra-brain information-superhighways. For example, "By acting as an electrical insulator, myelin greatly speeds up action potential conduction." See, Increased Conduction Velocity as a Result of Myelination, Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. At the time I met Dr Goldman, he was head of Neurology for the clinic, which sees thousands of cases a year from all over the world. He's now Chief of the Medical Center's Stem Cell and Gene Therapy Dept. Goldman briefed me in 2010 on a stem cell process he was working on which would work to enhance anyone's myelination. I'd like to visit them again and find out what they haven't told the world yet... Cheers, James
Yes, myelin is good for conduction velocity (which is why we have the white matter). But it is not clear this can be extended much further: the cortex needs bare dendritic surfaces to have connecting synapses on - adding myelin would prevent that. As someone in a MS-affected family I am of course all for research boosting myelin anyway, but mostly for therapeutic purposes.

Rafal suggested smart people may have better glial cells. This might be worth investigating. There have been claims that Einstein's brain had unusual levels of glial cells (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein%27s_brain#Glial_cells) but this remains to be confirmed. My suspicion is that this is yet another factor that could be a bottleneck in some people but not all. 

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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