Your brain is the center of your whole body. It is the center for all emotions, feelings, sights, sounds, smells. It controls everything and is a complicated organ that we can’t barely even begin to understand. Although we often think we’ve solved the puzzle, a new study out there has scientists scratching their head.
Somatic spikes were originally believed to be the only and main way that we form memories and perceptions. But those spikes were found to be 10 times larger than originally thought.
But what exactly is a somatic spike?
It is activity that is sent through dendrites, long structures that are attached to a body called a soma in order to form a neuron. They make up at least 90 percent of all our neural tissue. Dendrites were thought to be just a path for the activity to travel on to other neurons, but that is proving to be false.
Mayank Mehta, a neurophysicist conducting this study, says that the dendrites are actually much more active than we originally thought:
“Knowing they are much more active than the soma fundamentally changes the nature of our understanding of how the brain computes information. It may pave the way for understanding and treating neurological disorders, and for developing brain-like computers.”
Not only are the spikes more powerful than first thought, they are longer lasting. The dendrites can actually put out longer-lasting electrical voltages that are stronger than the somatic spikes.
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“These results show that the dendrites do not behave purely like a digital device. Dendrites do generate digital, all-or-none spikes, but they also show large analog fluctuations that are not all or none.” Mehta states.
This conclusion could completely blow away everything that neuroscientists have known for almost 60 years.
Mehta often compares the human brain to a computer or analog in the sense that they function very similarly:
“We found that dendrites are hybrids that do both analog and digital computations, which are therefore fundamentally different from purely digital computers, but somewhat similar to quantum computers that are analog.” she states.
Because of this discovery that dendrites are actually up to 100 times larger than the somas, there is the possibility that this means our brains could have 100 times more capacity. This would mean we have a larger capacity and ability to compute information. This could also lead to additional discoveries on how to treat neurological disorders and how to treat them better.
This study is proving that we still have so much more to learn about the human brain and its abilities. With studies like this continuing to discover the secrets of the brain, we are well on our way to improved mental health and better health care. We can’t be sure of everything the brain is capable of yet, but this study is one step closer to finding out. With the knowledge that our brains could possibly have 100 times more capacity than originally thought, the possibilities are endless.