As I’m writing this, one of the latest theories of neuroscience is that of Dark Neurons.
Is that a cool idea, or what?
This is a new theory articulated by neuroscientist Mark Humphries in his new book The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.5 Seconds.
He explains what Dark Neurons might be and possible reasons why they exist.
Because this discovery may turn out to be a branch on the existing model, a sephirot if you will, it could change how we think about oUr brains.
First, what are Dark Neurons?
At this point they don’t know much about them except that they may be neurons that don’t fire, or if they do, they fire very rarely and without creating an action potential. That is, they serve no purpose for you.
They sit in your dark brain like mummies, while all the other neurons spark like firecracker babies and make you do and think stuff.
Neuroscientists do not know they what purpose they serve.
I suspect that neuroscience and physics are essentially different models attempting to explain the same thing, which is reality itself. Obviously there are differences to their models, but they all have the same goal, to unify our understanding of reality.
It seems many quantum physicists have left their field for neuroscience and are studying the brain mathematically, like the Argentinian neuroscientist Rodrigo Quiroga who has a mathematical model of the brain that shows that among the 86 billion neurons we have, there is one dedicated to Jennifer Aniston.
For most of us.
If you know who she is and you got a picture of her, or put her in context with being an actress or whatever, that neuron just fired. It will spark only for her, nobody else.
Before the exodus of physicists into brain science, the standard theory was that we had 100 billion neurons in our brain, those connecting things that spark memories and action potentials, but as mathematical models become more elegant, that number has been reduced to 86 billion. This is the precise number scientists agree upon.
The brain is a universe it itself, and I could see what physicists would be eager to go into it.
So here’s my question:
Are Dark Neurons to neuroscientists what Dark Matter and Dark Energy used to be to physicists?
Physicists believed for a long time in what they couldn’t measure or even see, that the majority of the universe, that is, the cosmos, are made up of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Physicists believed this to be true even though they didn’t know what they were or why they existed.
They arrived at this belief because of the math. If they followed the equations of General Relativity, the language told them that the universe should be expanding at a much faster rate than it is. There must be a lot of invisible matter holding it back with strong gravitational forces.
It became reality through math, not observation, which is to say, it became a model created through syntax and mathematical incantation, that is, an elegant equation.
Later it became confirmed by observation, at least that’s how we understand it, and today no one in science denies Dark Matter exists. In fact, with Dark Energy, the two make up more than 90 percent of everything in the universe.
Dark Matter is.
Dark Energy exists.
They may very well hold the universe together. They ARE the universe.
And, yeah, we still don’t know WHAT they are.
But they’re dark.
That’s kind of like Dark Neurons, no?
Of the 86 billion neurons inside the cosmos of our brain most of them are dark and we don’t know why they exist.
Humphries got into neuroscience because of his interest in code writing, which he started doing when he was seven-years old, so it makes sense that he could study the brain by creating mathematical codes that explain it and by which you can test reactions and behavior.
Code is a language. Humphreys is looking at the universe within our heads mathematically, giving it structure, creating models that will describe truth, and because it’s with the brain, what he sets out to do would describe who we are, what it is to be human.
This is what the poet does.
This is what the philosopher does.
We use different languages, but we’re all trying to arrive at an understanding of truth.
In poetry we understand that we will never get there, that it is ineffable, unreachable, but we still try.
We create poems we hope will explain the unexplainable.
Ok, so physicists have Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
Neuroscientists have Dark Neurons.
Do poets have Dark Language?
Dark Language is the unused linguistic units available to you, so when you’re writing a line and it’s coming to you and you hear it and you follow it, but suddenly two or three other possible paths pop up, you keep going in the same direction or you turn and change directions. Either way, the other syntactical and rhythmic possibilities are still there, they’re just dark, waiting like soldiers to be used by the poet.
One of the possibilities Humphries has as to why Dark Neurons might exist is that they could be waiting for some sort of cognitive challenge of the brain, some sort of rewiring, learning new things, a new language, for example. These dark neurons are ready, and they will fire up when needed.
I like that idea, especially as I get older and my brain suffers entropy.
It’s good to believe that buried deep inside in my brain like the terracotta soldiers of Qin Shi Huang are neuron warriors ready for any challenge, ready to come alive and fight.