16 Mar 2010

Is This How Brain Waves And Neurons Create Consciousness?

This is a controversial issue, but some light is starting to be shone in this direction. Many neuroscientists assume that the electric fields generated by neurons are too weak to have any effect on their neighbours. However, recent research (Radman et al., 2007) has shown that weak electric fields (<5 V/m) within a broad spectrum of operating brain frequencies affect the firing properties of individual neurons. The researchers show that the nonlinear properties of an individual neuron can 'amplify' the effects of such small fields, effectively 'resonating' with the extracellular field. [...]

The researchers are thus fully aware of the importance of their findings in that they provide a framework within which others can develop neuro-therapies, as well as for researchers looking at the effects of environmental electromagnetic radiation. Add to that the not insignificant contribution to how the brain really functions! So much so that an open letter is appended to the research paper by David M. Alexander, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. "As reported by Massimini et al. (2004), slow-wave sleep EEG has been shown to take the form of a global spatio-temporal wave. Such waves are able to act as an 'external' source of electric fields to individual minicolumns in the cortex. There is now sufficient evidence to outline the case that large-scale electrical field dynamics do indeed play a causal role in brain activity, and to propose confirmatory experiments." The letter is also interesting in that it lists other papers that add weight to the Radman experiments, one paper going all the way back to 1984. Alexander sounds like a converted skeptic as he also quotes:"our [Radman et al.] results challenge the common view that extracellular slow potential oscillations represent mere epiphenomena without physiological significance per se."

Is This How Brain Waves And Neurons Create Consciousness?
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