The highways of the brain are the peculiarity of the human mind, but there is a “price to pay” – WWN

The highways of the brain are the peculiarity of the human mind, but there is a “price to pay” – WWN

Of Danilo di Diodorus

The highest manifestations of the mind are generated in faster connections than others, where there is 65 percent more energy consumption recorded in other areas of the brain. Identified by a German study

The human brain works through billions of lightning speeds connections continuously active, but now it has been discovered that some of these connections are real highways on which information flows even faster, thus correlating multiple areas at the same time.

What travels on these “highways”

This is how the highest manifestations of the human mind, such as self-awareness, attention, episodic memory, activity planning. The existence of these very high-speed connections was discovered by some researchers led by Valentin Riedl del Department of Neuroradiology of the Technical University of Munich, who published an article on the matter in the magazine Science Advances. And as happens with cars on real motorways, these also have maximum consumption: approximately 65 percent more than the energy consumption recorded in other areas of the brainsuch as those intended to control body movements.

They characterize human beings

The existence of these very high-speed connections is one specificity of human beings who, thanks to such connections, have developed levels of intelligence far superior to those of animals with even much larger brains, such as elephants. These are connections that emerged during human evolution and are detectable in areas such as prefrontal cortex.
To arrive at this discovery, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, applying them to 30 volunteers, thus managing to measure at the same time the metabolism of glucose, which represents energy consumption, and the quantity of information between the neurons of the cortex, the main cells of the brain tissue. In this way they managed to locate the areas with the highest consumption correlating them to those with greater levels of connectivity. So it was a study of what is now called the “connectome”, a term that indicates the map of connections within the brain.

The “price to pay”

«Our research has allowed us to identify an increase in energy metabolism in the areas of the cerebral cortex that has expanded during evolution – say the authors – and which is correlated to the level of neuronal signal and in particular to the action of some neuromediators capable of modifying the metabolism in neurons, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.” These wonderful brain mechanisms that make human beings capable of extremely complex cognitive functions, however, do not come without a price to pay. In fact, those same neuromodulators that allow so much wonder are also underlying some of the most common mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Many of the drugs used to combat these disorders aim precisely to interfere with the functioning of these neuromediators, allowing the attenuation of some symptoms, without however having yet been able to carry out precise manipulations of their functioning.

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December 27, 2023 (modified December 27, 2023 | 07:12)

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