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Consciousness: new thermodynamically inspired theory tries to explain what it is

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What does consciousness depend on and how does it originate? This is one of the most fascinating questions but also one of the most inexplicable of all science also because studying conscience itself often poses problems related to the sector from which to start in order to lay the foundations for a study. New research, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, tries to answer this question referring to what can be considered a new theory inspired by thermodynamics.

If in the past it has been hypothesized that consciousness can derive from a highly coordinated activity between neurons, the researchers behind this study believe instead that the key to awareness is an energy flow and reflux: when neurons connect to each other for processing the information, the patterns of these activities tune in like ocean waves.

According to the authors of the study, this would be a process intrinsically related to that of thermodynamic principles.

The latter would be at the base of the same neural connections and therefore of consciousness. Furthermore, interruptions of this process of energy flow and reflux would lead to the interruption of communication between neural networks and would give rise to the most common neurological disorders we know, such as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia.

This is a study that, as reported in the article on Medium presenting the study (see the link below), combines classical physics (essentially the laws of thermodynamics) with everything we know about neural activity today: it follows a general framework in which changes in free energy help to temporarily synchronize activity in neural networks.

The study was produced by researcher Jose L. Perez Velazquez affiliated with the Ronin Institute of Montclair who worked together with colleagues Diego M. Mateos and Ramon Guevara Erra.

Medium article: https://medium.com/@novela_neurotech/a-new-theory-of-brain-organization-takes-aim-at-the-mystery-of-consciousness-e9ee6e24233a

Tracey Johnson

Tracey was a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) before retiring in 2015 to spend more time with her husband and two sons. In February of 2019 she came up with the idea of starting an online news journal reporting on the latest medical advances, and very shortly afterwards, Health Shiner was born.

3428 Counts Lane, West Hartford, Connecticut 06105
Ph: 860-231-3066
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Tracey Johnson
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Medical Research

Deaf people have “rewired” brains that influence learning according to a new study

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According to a new study published in Nature Scientific Reports, the brains of people with congenital deafness can develop differently and this can influence the ways in which these same people learn to learn. This study, according to the same researchers, may prove useful precisely to develop new methods of teaching “tailor-made” for all people who have never had the opportunity to use hearing during their existence.

According to Colin Johnson, a researcher at the College of Science of the State University of Oregon, people who are born deaf can have a life that is severely compromised even with regards to school and teaching in general. Often these people, in fact, as specified by the researcher, generally fail to reach an adequate level of education and this leads to cascade to other consequences that certainly do not improve the standard of living.

Researchers have discovered that it is a particular protein mutation that causes hearing loss and that it can also alter the wiring of different groups of neurons. The protein, known as otoferlina, has the sole task of encoding the sound in the sensory hair cells that are found in the inner ear.

If this protein undergoes a genetic modification, total hearing loss can occur. This mutation weakens the link between the protein and a calcium synapse in the ear and this lack of interaction is the basis of hearing loss.

Studying this protein in humans has always been difficult due to its size and due to the fact that it is characterized by low solubility. That is why Johnson and colleagues have studied zebrafish that share a similarity in genetic, molecular and cellular levels with humans.

Thanks to these studies, the researcher has discovered a smaller version of the otoferlina that could be used for gene therapy but only in those brains that have not yet undergone a complete rewiring such as that of adults.

“If you grow up without that protein, it’s not just a matter of replacing the gene. If you are deaf and grow deaf, it seems that the physical wiring of your brain is a little different. This complicates the goal of doing gene therapy. We need to go further and look at these hair cells and the brain itself. Does the brain process information differently? This is an area we need to focus on,” explains Johnson.

Tracey Johnson

Tracey was a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) before retiring in 2015 to spend more time with her husband and two sons. In February of 2019 she came up with the idea of starting an online news journal reporting on the latest medical advances, and very shortly afterwards, Health Shiner was born.

3428 Counts Lane, West Hartford, Connecticut 06105
Ph: 860-231-3066
Email: [email protected]
Tracey Johnson
Continue Reading

Medical Research

Ghrelin can increase the urge to exercise according to a new discovery

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As some researchers have observed when performing experiments on mice, limiting access to food can increase the levels of a particular hormone, called ghrelin, and this in turn can increase the motivation to exercise, something that naturally leads, in a chain effect, slimming.

In the study, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, it is described how the increase in the level of this hormone pushed mice to voluntarily start exercising or physical activity. This finding, according to the same researchers, could lead, through the limitation of food intake or through the so-called “intermittent fasting,” overweight people to be encouraged to exercise more.

On the other hand, the restriction of food the same regular exercise are the two main ways and the most economic strategies to prevent and treat obesity, a sort of global “epidemic” that requires much more effective intervention strategies. However, adhering to a regular training regime can be difficult for many because motivation is lacking.

This hormone, also called the “hunger hormone,” can not only stimulate the appetite but, as demonstrated by Yuji Tajiri and colleagues from the Kurume University medical school, Japan, it can also stimulate the same desire to exercise. The mice genetically modified in the laboratory for not having ghrelin of their body, in fact, ran less than the control mice, which instead had normal ghrelin levels.

According to Tajiri, the results achieved by this study indicate “that hunger, which promotes ghrelin production, could also be involved in increasing motivation to voluntary exercise when nutrition is limited. Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet, with regular meals or fasting, could also encourage motivation for exercising in overweight people.”

Tracey Johnson

Tracey was a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) before retiring in 2015 to spend more time with her husband and two sons. In February of 2019 she came up with the idea of starting an online news journal reporting on the latest medical advances, and very shortly afterwards, Health Shiner was born.

3428 Counts Lane, West Hartford, Connecticut 06105
Ph: 860-231-3066
Email: [email protected]
Tracey Johnson
Continue Reading

Medical Research

Exposure to sunlight can modify intestinal microbiome

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Exposure of the skin to ultraviolet light from the sun can modify the intestinal microbiome according to a new study published in Frontiers in Microbiology. To mediate this change would be vitamin D and this would also explain the protective effect of ultraviolet light itself with regard to inflammatory bowel diseases.

It is well known that exposure to sunlight gives greater production of vitamin D in the skin. It is known, however, through studies published in recent years, also that the same greater quantity of vitamin D can alter the human intestinal microbiome. It follows that solar radiation on the skin can change the human intestinal microbiome but this has only been shown in rodents. This new study shows that this effect is also real for humans.

The researchers performed experiments on 21 healthy volunteer women. The 21 patients underwent three one-minute ultraviolet exposure sessions throughout the body for a week. Throughout the treatment, stool samples were taken and intestinal bacteria were analyzed. Blood samples were also taken to analyze vitamin D levels. The researchers discovered that the exposure of the skin to ultraviolet rays significantly increased the intestinal microbial diversity and this happened only in those people who had not taken vitamin D supplements in the course of experiments.

As explained by Bruce Vallance, a researcher at the University of British Columbia who led the study, exposure to UVB rays increased the richness and uniformity of the subjects’ microbiome. Before exposure to rays, women who did not take supplements showed a less diversified intestinal microbiome than women who already took vitamin D supplements. Among the bacteria that increased the most were the Lachnospiraceae, a genus of bacteria already previously linked with vitamin D.

“UVB light is able to modulate the composition of the intestinal microbiome in humans, through the synthesis of vitamin D,” says Vallance. Now researchers would like to discover the underlying causes but according to Vallance, it is likely that exposure to UVB light somehow affects the immune system of the skin and this, in turn, has a favorable influence on the intestinal environment for different species of bacteria.

Tracey Johnson

Tracey was a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) before retiring in 2015 to spend more time with her husband and two sons. In February of 2019 she came up with the idea of starting an online news journal reporting on the latest medical advances, and very shortly afterwards, Health Shiner was born.

3428 Counts Lane, West Hartford, Connecticut 06105
Ph: 860-231-3066
Email: [email protected]
Tracey Johnson
Continue Reading
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