Tag Archives: brain imaging

Are we living inside one enormous Brain?

I’ve always been struck by how alike microscopic images of the brain are to depictions of the universe. The pictures of neuronal connections and other microscopic brain images in biology books appeared to me to bear a striking resemblance to many of those portraying aspects of outer space in physics books and related media.

Having only what you might call a pop scientific education in matters of the cosmos, I never thought of this connection as anything more than a superficial coincidence. However, after recently coming across the following excerpt from a 2006 edition of the New York Times, I’ve been spurred into reconsidering the relationship.

neuron-galaxy

The picture on the left is a microscopic segment of a mouses brain, the one on the right is a computer simulation of the structure of the universe.  According to the text written above the images, the picture of the neuron is “only micrometres wide” whereas the image of the universe is “billions of light-years across” and yet, as the text points out,  “together [the images] suggest surprisingly similar patterns found in vastly different natural phenomena.”

The fact this connection had been acknowledged outside the realm of my own imagination unleashed a whole swarm of ardent notions (it’s amazing what a bit of reassurance can do).

For instance, if a similarity exists between the connections of neurons in our head and connections between galaxies in our universe, what’s to say a similar connection might not be found between each and every individual in our world, or each and every world in any one galaxy.

What if, and this one’s going to sound particularly outlandish, humans are just the equivalent of a collection of neurons in one gigantic brain, one gigantic brain inside many gigantic brains even. What if, that is, we’re all living inside one enormous Brain. Consider it something of a “Russian doll theory of life”, a human brain, functioning within a world brain, functioning within a galactic brain…you get the picture.

Sure, it might seem a thing of the most far-fetched science fiction, but even at that, it is fun to allow the mind a boggle every once and awhile…

 

 

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Connections in colour

Following from an earlier piece on the unique features of individual brains, I thought I’d share these wonderful pictures with you. Using a technique called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), the neuroscientist Owen Phillips created the lowermost image by averaging the brain connectivity of 65 people. The image on top portrays Phillips’ own brain.

Diptic

DTI renderings of brain connectivity (As if brain were cut down the midline and viewed from the side) Above image: Individual brain Below image: Average connectivity of 65 people (34F/35m)

The different colours in these pictures represent different directions of neuronal connections. So essentially, what you’re seeing here is the difference between the wiring of Phillips’ own brain compared to the average of 65 other brains. Very cool.

Phillips has done some other great artistic work with brain imaging technologies. If you like your pictures, as I certainly do, his website is well worth the gander.

 

 

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