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"More Complex Than a Galaxy" --New Insights Into the Enormous Biochemical Complexity of the Human Brain

 

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"Consider the human brain," says physicist Sir Roger Penrose. "If you look at the entire physical cosmos, our brains are a tiny, tiny part of it. But they're the most perfectly organized part. Compared to the complexity of a brain, a galaxy is just an inert lump."

Human brains share a consistent genetic blueprint and possess enormous biochemical complexity. The same basic functional elements are used throughout the cortex and understanding how one area works in detail will uncover fundamentals that apply to the other areas as well, scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature. Human brains share a consistent genetic blueprint, and possess enormous biochemical complexity, they said, based on the first deep and large-scale analysis of the vast data set publicly available in the Allen Human Brain Atlas. Among other findings, these data show that 84% of all genes are expressed somewhere in the human brain and in patterns that are substantially similar from one brain to the next.

The results of this study are based on extensive analysis of the Allen Human Brain Atlas, specifically, the detailed all-genes, all-structures survey of genes at work throughout the human brain. This dataset profiles 400 to 500 distinct brain areas per hemisphere using microarray technology and comprises more than 100 million gene expression measurements covering three individual human brains to date.

“This study demonstrates the value of a global analysis of gene expression throughout the entire brain and has implications for understanding brain function, development, evolution and disease,” said Ed Lein, Ph.D., Associate Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and co-lead author on the paper. “These results only scratch the surface of what can be learned from this immense data set. We look forward to seeing what others will discover.”

 

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The results of this study show that, despite the myriad personalities and cognitive talents seen across the human population, our brains are more similar to one another than different. Individual human brains share the same basic molecular blueprint, and deeper analysis of this shared architecture reveals several further findings:

Neighboring regions of the brain’s cortex are more biochemically similar to one another than to more distant brain regions, which has implications for understanding the development of the human brain, both during the lifespan and throughout evolution. The right and left hemispheres show no significant differences in molecular architecture. This suggests that functions such as language, which are generally handled by one side of the brain, likely result from more subtle differences between hemispheres or structural variation in size or circuitry, but not from a deeper molecular basis.

Despite controlling a diversity of functions, ranging from visual perception to planning and problem-solving, the cortex is highly homogeneous relative to other brain regions. This suggests that the same basic functional elements are used throughout the cortex and that understanding how one area works in detail will uncover fundamentals that apply to the other areas, as well.*In addition to such global findings, the study provides new insights into the detailed inner workings of the brain at the molecular level – the level at which diseases unfold and therapeutic drugs take action.

Many previously uncharacterized genes are turned on in specific brain regions and localize with known functional groups of genes, suggesting they play roles in particular brain functions. Synapse-associated genes—those related to cell-to-cell communication machinery in the brain—are deployed in complex combinations throughout the brain, revealing a great diversity of synapse types and remarkable regional variation that likely underlies functional distinctions between brain regions.

“The tremendous variety of synapses we see in the human brain is quite striking,” said Seth Grant, FRSE, Professor of Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh and collaborating author on the study. “Mutations in synaptic genes are associated with numerous brain-related disorders, and thus understanding synapse diversity and organization in the brain is a key step toward understanding these diseases and developing specific and effective therapeutics to treat them.”

Fully integrating several different kinds of data across different scales of brain exploration, the Allen Human Brain Atlas is an open, public online resource that details genes at work throughout the human brain. Data incorporated into the Atlas include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as histology and gene expression data derived from both microarray and in situ hybridization (ISH) approaches.

Users of the Allen Human Brain Atlas comprise a diverse array of biomedical researchers — primarily neuroscientists — throughout the world. They include scientists who study the human brain itself, as well as those working in model systems, providing a rare and important opportunity for them to probe the relevance of the findings to humans. Currently, more than 5,000 unique visitors access the Atlas each month.

The Allen Human Brain Atlas is available via the Allen Brain Atlas data portal at www.brain-map.org.

 

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The Daily Galaxy via Allen Institute for Brain Science 

Image credit: Allen Institute for Brain Science


Comments

Out of curiosity, I went to the site to see if the researchers had accounted for autism. After browsing around a bit, I find that they did, but instead of just including it in the overall data set (which would have been ideal) or looking at it as a "special case" (which is what I expected to find) they treat it as a disease to be researched. Not only is this "not cool" (to say the least), it will skew the data in a way that will be bad for the research in the long run.

NEUROLOGICALLY NORMAL
-- James Ph. Kotsybar

Swimming in separate body oceans
a variety of evolutions take place.
In the dark, with secret motions,
the neurons bunch in weird convolutions.

Held gently afloat in nutrient brine,
their dendrites mysteriously enlaced,
they interact in ways hard to define
within the skulls in which they are encased.

So they don’t become depressed or manic,
a mostly neutral pH they’ll maintain,
otherwise they might stroke-out or panic
and, by this measure, we might call them sane,
yet, measured by their electrical spike,
we find few two likely to "think" alike.

It is quite true that the human brain is a complex piece of machinery,but to compare the galaxy, as little as we do know, to us is the apex of narcissism. We are not the crown of creation. We may be self centered egocentric idiots, but we are not the crown of creation. We know a little of the galaxy we live in, and not we believe we are a pack of know-it-all's. Why is it that the more we know the bigger our sense of self worth grows? If our overblown sense of self importance grows, we would need a separate solar system to put our egos in. If the human brain is so great, what accounts for all of the dumb things we do? Why is there so many who drop out of high school? Why are there so many in prison? Why are there so many drug addicts? Why are there so many that are illiterate?

This is your brain. This your ego. Get over yourself.

The human brain "just" mirrors the formative filaments and its electromagnetic structure and functions in the Universe.

high schools and prisons are modern man-made contrivances and are not relative to "intelligence"....society deems it 'mandatory' for a certain level of so-called education ~ and for some it is like putting a round peg in a square hole ~ it doesn't work...they are forced to do as society before them has ordered...they may learn differently and it is stupidity to force them into institutions....the prison aspect has the problem that once inside, the people are unproductive (forcibly) and just waiting to get out (and many times there really is no reason for them to be inside, though that is a whole other topic of discussion)....it is a well-established and accepted fact that the longer someone is out of work the more difficult it is for them to get a job, so many people come out of prison and commit crimes to get back in as soon as they can....there is no rehabilitation or keeping up of any skills one has while incarcerated....so, where does the stupidity lay in that situation?....as for the drug addicts, that, too, is a modern 'scourge'....there has been use of 'drugs' throughout history by people to have spiritual experiences, to forsee the future, be used as a sort of stepping stone for spiritual attainment...it is the use of 'drugs' without understanding the spiritual that causes 'addicts'....people get stuck on the physical aspects of the drug and get the experience from the drug rather than having the spiritual experience which can be available all the time...lack of knowledge about drugs is the stupidity in that situation....

i believe we also have to get over this idea of "normal"....there may be commonalities, however, things that are "common" cannot translate to "normal", as that will always require someone to dictate what 'normal' is.....

The human brain is the most interesting and fascinating complex thing in the universe people..............

You cannot say it's the most complex organ in the Milky Way Galaxy if you don't know what's out there, and Humans don't really know anything substantial, for now. I don't think we should underestimate life and also the possibility for hyper-complex "artificial" brains made by other beings in this galaxy. Even if more complex organs don't exist now, they may have existed in the past. Even Humans themselves will probably create much more complex brains than our own in a few hundred years or less.

@patricia,

You wrote: "people get stuck on the physical aspects of the drug and get the experience from the drug rather than having the spiritual experience which can be available all the time...".

AD: Yes, and modern scientists also get stuck on the physical aspects of cosmos using instruments in order to know what is going on in the observable univers - rather than having spiritual experiences which can be available all the time via the natural meditation and pondering over cosmos.

Native People from all over the world have gathered cosmic knowledge in their mythical stories, even of the creation. It is just a question of interpreting the stories in a modern way. All superior deities from all cultures are directly connected to the primeval matters and to the creation of our galaxy and solar system.

Read and see more here: http://www.native-science.net

@ Terry: No, it's not; important as it is to us, I don't think it's the be all and end all. There are probably brains out there which would make ours look like the primitive knot of nerves at the end of the spinal chord that it evolved from.

thanks for the information also the comments, very helpful all...

The HUMAN brain is number one in amazing complexity? Riiight. Is this a creationist argument (or MD). Because how about a brain the size of a period on this page that in the first minute of awareness, can navigate like a GPS, make judgments, find things based on detection of a few molecules, find mates, and run a whole body with a combination of electrical and chemical networks... A fruit fly or gnat is even more amazing.

The mind IS the most beautifulest creation in the universe. The only problem is that the human mind has the ability to understand the complexity of it that no other species on earth has. If they had the option, every species would be just as curious and interested as us. But they haven't evolved to think like us yet. But without the mind, the universe literately doesn't exist until a mind deems it so. But to have a mind that can understand the universe and it's own complexity is a mirror of information which can only help in the long run.

So true: Our brain is a microcosm and the Universe its replica a macrocosm. The basic architecture remains the same, templates of the big and small are the same. To understand the microcosm right in front of our eyes and the mysteries of the macrocosm, the key lies in unravelling beyond 'Higgs Boson' and unscramble the haze that make the first 300 m years after 'The Big Bang' obscure. Once we see through obscurity we untangle the mystery of The Gods.

Nutrient chemicals determine similarities in brain development. The nutrients are metabolized to species-specific mixtures of pheromones that determine individual differences in the development of adaptively evolved personalities and cognitive talents (via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction).

The epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones on genetically predisposed intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression have been modeled in the honeybee model organism, which extends to humans the concept of the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.

It is now clear how an environmental drive evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones that have developmental affects on behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.

The developmental affects on our behavior are manifestations of the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones on hormones and brain development. If we eliminate consideration for the epigenetic effects of human pheromones, we have an explanation for nutrient chemical-dependent brain similarities, but no explanation for differences in behavior that are pheromone-dependent in all other species.

The differences in behavior are species specific and so are pheromones. What does that tell you about the development of human personalities and cognitive talents?

How can a brain be more complex than a galaxy? a galaxy includes all the brains and all other complex structures within it and is in some way responsible for their existence.

"The brain is not an organ that generates consciousness, but rather an instrument evolved to transmit and limit the processes of consciousness and of conscious attention so as to restrict them to those aspects of the material environment which at any moment are crucial for the terrestrial success of the individual. In that case such phenomena as telepathy and clairvoyance would be merely instances in which some of the limitations were removed."
-- Cyril Burt, ESP and Psychology, (London, 1975), pg. 60,
as quoted in Chris Carter, Science and the Near-Death Experience, (Rochester, VT; 2010), pg. 18.

My brain hurts!

Global brain will bring the ''Birds of a feather flock together.'' Real unity of mankind will be oneness of consciousness and not through victory of one set of dogma over other.


Peter Russell, 'The Global Brain' is always at my bedside from the day I came to know of him. Peter Russell incorporated in me the importance of 'global interconnectivity' to a fascinating extreme and rising global consciousness; I always underscore 'The Internet' era or cyber age similar to the central nervous system of a newly evolved global organism and have drawn parallels between the development of the central nervous system in living organisms and creation of Web communications here on Earth. I believe that when our connections will reach equal to our 'brain' neural connections of a single brain a critical mass an evolutionary leap to a global brain will occur. The human race will then evolve into a super organism acting as a whole instead of 7-9 billion individuals.


Like human brain individually, a global brain collectively is designed for the making, filtering and conservation of knowledge. The brain seeks explanation; ideal facts; truth. It has the questions that need to be answered. Global brain will bring the ''Birds of a feather flock together.'' Healthier groups lead to healthier filter, and a enhanced filter is a superior brain. This machine is incessantly filtering its own productivity to create a better route for continually filtering its own production. To avoid this 'dark' future portrayed below , please set some time apart for joining the global brain of ideas, don't listen to those who think global networking is a zero sum game, the game has just begun and you better hold your front seats tight.


The similarities between human brain that contains around 84 billion neurons, making several hundred trillion interconnections and global emerging internet connectivity is thrilling. The better we understand these emergence of global consciousness and the patterns of global connectivity, the better we will understand our future. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, created the World Wide Web and then most philanthropically gave up the control. He is the biggest benefactor of mankind in this century. With the help of 'www' we've been building a global brain now nearly 5 years old. Our brain is a knowledge filter, in few years 75% of world adult population will be connected, they all will be filtering knowledge an 'idea whose time has come' will be unstoppable. Hemlock givers have no future. Global brain is an information filtration enormous network that tests huge claims on the poise of rationalism , logic and thinking.


This global brain will in few decades destroy lot of entrenched myths and legends. Yes, we see increased confusion, more diversions but it is the result of interactivity as old theories face their natural process of elimination. Today the grunts we hear are the last sighs of the scriptural legendary stories. To improve this global brain, one needs to contribute their two cents worth, we need to follow refined groups and go behind evolving mental power of united yet diversity prompted consciousness.


What are the intentions of the global brain? The global brain will be the greatest help to bring mankind together, this is ultimate death of distance with the help of our fingertips and our connectivity of minds. Global emergence of a unique consciousness will doom religious dogma as a futile force, Global brain will eliminate prejudices, narrow mindedness and scriptural authority of all kind. It will bring creativity, science scepticism and thinking in fore.

You need to remember, sir, while you concern yourself with the "egotistical humans", who have only limited knowledge of our own galaxy, that you are indeed missing the point entirely. One main point, at least in my mind, is the fact that a galaxy is so incredibly huge, as to render the comparative size of our brains nothing more than a singularity. You can do the math easily: Our galaxy is about 100 thousand light years across, and our brains are about 5 inches across. And keep in mind, that is the size of only one medium-sized galaxy. Considering the entire size of the known universe at about 10 to the 23rd or so (perhaps much larger), this fact indicates that our brains are in fact a 'near singularity'. So then, how can such a tiny thing develop conscious thought and self-awareness? Interesting questions I believe, which will never be answered.
Or, consider this: At a regional scale of cellular groupings, it's easy to organize the areas of the brain that do 'this and that'. However, as you delve deeper, to the molecular scale, the brain then becomes nearly exactly the same in structure, throughout. If you then delve even deeper to the quantum scale, or planck scale, you find that our brain is no different from anything else, nothing but some type of 'quantum foam' if you will. So where is the threshold as scale increases?? This is another question that will remain unanswered I am sure.

You need to remember, sir, while you concern yourself with the "egotistical humans", who have only limited knowledge of our own galaxy, that you are indeed missing the point entirely. One main point, at least in my mind, is the fact that a galaxy is so incredibly huge, as to render the comparative size of our brains nothing more than a singularity. You can do the math easily: Our galaxy is about 100 thousand light years across, and our brains are about 5 inches across. And keep in mind, that is the size of only one medium-sized galaxy. Considering the entire size of the known universe at about 10 to the 23rd or so (perhaps much larger), this fact indicates that our brains are in fact a 'near singularity'. So then, how can such a tiny thing develop conscious thought and self-awareness? Interesting questions I believe, which will never be answered.
Or, consider this: At a regional scale of cellular groupings, it's easy to organize the areas of the brain that do 'this and that'. However, as you delve deeper, to the molecular scale, the brain then becomes nearly exactly the same in structure, throughout. If you then delve even deeper to the quantum scale, or planck scale, you find that our brain is no different from anything else, nothing but some type of 'quantum foam' if you will. So where is the threshold as scale increases?? This is another question that will remain unanswered I am sure.

It is very interesting to observe the relation between the brain and the mind. The brain reasons and acquires knowledge and abilities. The mind is endowed with spiritual qualities such as awareness of right and wrong or conscience,faith,loyal love, joy, peace, a spiritual need etc. Can scientists explain how man acquired these spiritual qualities? By means of a Creator or by blind mindless chance?

It's funny how human brain is so complex but at the same time so easy to trick it to do or perceive things differently.
For example, the study where participants were asked to walk over a shaking bridge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misattribution_of_arousal or use of phermones to make people they are attracted to you https://www.gearisle.com/readourblog/do-pheromones-work/

I agree that brain is complex, but I think to compare that with complexity and enormity of galaxy is a bit too much.

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