A mouse neuron:
I do not speak of any old mouse neuron nor of all mouse neurons but of a single neuron, one in each mouse brain.  Perhaps you will not be surprised, but I am.  I find I am most often surprised by a new suggestion that pertains to something I have already an inkling of.  This pulls in a couple of inklings, so I find it pleasant; that’s probably a problem with my mind.  Most people seem to hate being invited to do some abstract reasoning; I rather enjoy it.

The first inkling was a remark made, I think, by Professor Hubel at Harvard.  He said the symmetry of the brain presented a difficulty.  Each of us has two brains, very nearly mirror images of each other.  Consciousness is a function of the brain so we should have two of them, but we have only one.  Therefore it had been suggested that there was a pontifical cell in the midline that controlled both halves.  He said it half in jest, and he drew a laugh.  We felt quite sure that the mythical pontifical cell would never come up on a test. 

In fact we were shown a little film clip of a woman speaking and acting quite naturally and even swimming.  Yet she had had surgery (for a serious problem obviously) that had divided her brain down the midline.  All right; not her whole brain.  It was just her cerebrum.  One would not survive having the brain stem bisected.  Anyway, the two halves of here brain were cooperating just fine even though at the higher levels they could not communicate.  But they could communicate through the outside world.  It is something I capitalize on.  If I read something I need to remember for a moment, I say it out loud, so the generally non-verbal part of the brain can hold onto it for a bit.  It can get the message internally across the midline, but it seems to help if it gets it independently by hearing it.

The other inkling requires me to make a confession.  I sometimes, when too tired to work or sleep, entertain myself by reading New Age articles or looking at such things on YouTube.  It is a meager but occasional chance to indulge in abstract thinking without any pressure to take notes. 

Some New Age thinkers are of the opinion that the brain is not a computer but a receiver, like a radio.  There is more to this than just wishful thinking.  A billion dollars are being sunk into proving the brain to be a computer.  Well it’s not a computer as we normally understand them.  Alan Turing proved that essentially a computer cannot do abstract reasoning … but people can.  He also proposed a test to see if a computer had consciousness.  The Turing Test is a popular subject; his theorem that a computer cannot in truth wake up is … shall we say … a bit obscure.  It isn’t what most people want to believe.  And people hate abstract reasoning, which the idea demands.

So on the one hand is the good professor, an icon of hard science, cold observation, abstract reasoning and no patience with superstition.  (He once said, “If something sounds unbelievable, you might seriously consider not believing it.”)  And on the other hand there are the independent New Age folk.  Neither is totally happy.

But now they can be.  Recent work has shown a cell in the mouse brain that encircles the whole brain, something Hubel did not envision, but looking for all the world like a pontifical cell.

(Sara Reardon, Giant Neuron Encircles Entire Brain of a Mouse, Nature vol. 543 no. 7643 March 2, 2017 page 14)

It also looks like an antenna.  And it ought to function at about 4 giga Hertz.  (That’s four billion cycles per second for those of you still on planet earth.)  Pretty much that’s the frequency of your WiFi.

Just sayin’.

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