This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← In Tiny Worm, Unlocking Secrets of the Brain

In Tiny Worm, Unlocking Secrets of the Brain - Comments

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 1 by Tyler Durden

...the study of its nervous system offers one of the most promising approaches for understanding the human brain, since it uses much the same working parts but is around a million times less complex.

Such a system should be considerably easier to understand than the human brain, a structure with billions of neurons, 100,000 miles of biological wiring and 100 trillion synapses.

Incredible news.

This can only help with regard to research into Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, traumatic brain injury, stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and neurodegenerative disorders such as demetia.

Go science!!

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 19:42:29 UTC | #641398

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 2 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 19:52:51 UTC | #641402

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 3 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 21:17:44 UTC | #641425

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 4 by DamnDirtyApe

Clearly Elegant.

(only worm guys will get that)

Its amazing the amount of good stuff we've got from those worms. Real solid stuff on the mechanisms of the nervous system.

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 23:08:59 UTC | #641453

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 5 by God fearing Atheist

Comment 4 by DamnDirtyApe :

Clearly Elegant.

(only worm guys will get that)

Unfortunately, I got that.

If a human brain has 80 billion neurons, it is 264 million times 302. I'm not sure why the journalist thinks it is a million times. That is without adding each human cortical neuron probably has 20,000 synapses.

What would be required to say that the worm’s nervous system was fully understood? “You would want to understand a behavior all the way through, and then how the behavior can change,” Dr. Bargmann says.

“That goal is not unattainable,” she adds.

Bloody pessimist. Get on with it! :-) What chance do we have with 80 billion if you give are all pessimistic about 302?

Tue, 21 Jun 2011 23:59:23 UTC | #641461

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 6 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 00:37:05 UTC | #641468

Daniel Schealler's Avatar Comment 7 by Daniel Schealler

I think I'm revealing my IT bias.

If we could model every single neuron in the roundworm's brain; AND If we could connect a chip to the nervous system of the roundworm; THEN Couldn't we, in principle, replace a roundworm's brain with a computer chip?

Obviously there's the whole brain-chemistry-influences-neurological behavior thing, which would be cut out.

But it's still an interesting thought... Hmm...

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 00:44:17 UTC | #641470

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

I was just thinking the other day about why haven't researchers started to try and fully understand a roundworm brain, as we can count the cells and figure out what each one actually does.

If we could model every single neuron in the roundworm's brain; AND If we could connect a chip to the nervous system of the roundworm; THEN Couldn't we, in principle, replace a roundworm's brain with a computer chip?

We could at least run a full simulation of a roundworm brain, which would be a major achievement.

Such a system should be considerably easier to understand than the human brain, a structure with billions of neurons, 100,000 miles of biological wiring and 100 trillion synapses.

There's probably more synapses than that. 100 billion cells, each with, on average, 10,000 synapses gives 1000 trillion synapses. I think.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 01:12:06 UTC | #641472

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 9 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 01:30:29 UTC | #641477

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 10 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 01:49:40 UTC | #641481

educationsaves's Avatar Comment 11 by educationsaves

very interesting article. With us unlocking these kinds of secretes why does anyone want to live in the darkness of religion.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 03:16:55 UTC | #641492

Universeman's Avatar Comment 12 by Universeman

This was a surprising result because most people thought that sensory information was perceived as neutral, with the brain deciding later from the context whether it was good or bad. Dr. Bargmann sees the arrangement in evolutionary terms. “The more reliable a piece of information is, the more it will be shifted into the genome,” she says. That way, an organism does not have to risk learning what is good or bad; the genes will dictate the right behavior by wiring it into the nervous system. Worms are wired up to know that diacetyl means good eating.

I love science, this makes me wonder how much of who I am is genetically hard wired into the neurons of my brain, and what parts are, well you know, me. I have always had social anxiety for example, I am told from day one, perhaps even earlier. Yet now I have accomplished many things in my life which seemed impossible on the outset, but are now part of my past. I still have social anxiety issues; they seem to be a fundamental part of my personality. As I have gotten older however, I have learned to control this apparent genetic preprogramming and can typically subdue my anxiety by force of will and hard won self confidence.

I may be LDS, (please don’t let my personal beliefs derail this thread) but I most certainly do not live in darkness. I do in fact believe that the neural activity of our brain is exactly who we are. I especially like the idea of a worm brain computer simulation, that is very intriguing indeed. Perhaps we are one tiny little nematode step closer in our understanding the mystery of our consciousness.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 08:32:04 UTC | #641583

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 13 by rod-the-farmer

I wonder what the reaction would be, if we put a passionate scientist in front of an audience of ID types and strong religious people, and had that scientist explain all this research ? I have always thought that no matter what the profession, a good story teller will find the audience hanging on every word. Plumber or brain surgeon, accountant or shoe salesman, we all have interesting stories to tell. Perhaps a good story teller (with this good story) could help swing a few opinions towards science, and the benefits this particular story might bring. And make sure you understand, what is needed here is a good story teller.

For those of you active scientists out there, do you ever think of offering yourselves as speakers to the religious community ? Imagine the feeling if you thought you had lit a small spark in the mind of a young person, that would direct them to studying science, when prior to your speech, that person would never have considered it. Gives me a shiver, just thinking of it. I wish I could do more of this. I have the passion, but not much of the expertise and none of the experience.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 10:02:54 UTC | #641614

ridelo's Avatar Comment 14 by ridelo

They study worms! I kid you not!

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 12:00:18 UTC | #641650

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 15 by SomersetJohn

Why is the wiring diagram produced by Dr. White so hard to interpret? She pulls down from her shelves a dog-eared copy of the journal in which the wiring was first described. The diagram shows the electrical connections that each of the 302 neurons makes to others in the system. These are the same kind of connections as those made by human neurons. But worms have another kind of connection.

Besides the synapses that mediate electrical signals, there are also so-called gap junctions that allow direct chemical communication between neurons. The wiring diagram for the gap junctions is quite different from that of the synapses.

Not only does the worm’s connectome, as Dr. Bargmann calls it, have two separate wiring diagrams superimposed on each other, but there is a third system that keeps rewiring the wiring diagrams. This is based on neuropeptides, hormonelike chemicals that are released by neurons to affect other neurons.

For me this bit is the most awe inspiring, because of the level of complexity it introduces. 302 neurons sounds fairly easy to model in a computer, even allowing for the number of synapses this suggests. These paragraphs make it orders of magnitude more difficult. I wish Bergmann sucess in her endevours.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 12:01:36 UTC | #641651

Anvil's Avatar Comment 16 by Anvil

Comment 14 by ridelo

They study worms! I kid you not!

Applause.

Anvil.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 14:49:58 UTC | #641704

JuJu's Avatar Comment 17 by JuJu

Comment 12 by Universeman

I may be LDS, (please don’t let my personal beliefs derail this thread) but I most certainly do not live in darkness.

Hopefully for you these types of studies will help find a cure for your condition. Maybe someday they will find a way to bypass the neural pathway causing your delusion.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 15:15:01 UTC | #641718

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 18 by Neodarwinian

302 neurons and 8000 synapses. About an order of magnitude greater than any creationists brain. This begs the question then. Why can we not understand why creationists " think " the way they do?

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 16:20:28 UTC | #641751

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 19 by Stafford Gordon

They study worms! I kid you not! Spot on.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 19:43:37 UTC | #641821

bluebird's Avatar Comment 20 by bluebird

Gluhwurmchen ;) Seriously,

...she has repeatedly developed new kinds of approaches.

Dr. Bargmann is smart and passionate; I hope she gives lectures to inspire girls to persue science.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 22:02:39 UTC | #641869

Owin's Avatar Comment 21 by Owin

I'd be interested in hearing more about her approach. It seems like there is more to it than zapping away neurons controlling certain attributes. Ah yeah, does someone know what behaviors in humans are then actually set into motion by genes alone? I wonder if our biological clock would be an example.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 17:31:28 UTC | #842306

Universeman's Avatar Comment 22 by Universeman

If we could model every single neuron in the roundworm's brain; AND If we could connect a chip to the nervous system of the roundworm; THEN Couldn't we, in principle, replace a roundworm's brain with a computer chip?

Why stop there, given enough processing power why not replace the human mind with a supercomputer, you know, like in the Matrix, to actually transfer ones consciousness from their brain to a computer. I cannot think of any unforeseeable technological hurdles which would prevent us from eventually accomplishing such a feat, our brains are after all just a computer created by evolution, in which our consciousness resides.

Oh and if your wondering about my thoughts regarding a soul, I do in fact consider our spirit/consciousness to be the actual electro-chemical activity of our brain, not a separate immaterial whatever (D&C 93:23-36 light = intelligence = truth = spirit = the electrochemical energy of our brain).

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 20:09:42 UTC | #842351

Universeman's Avatar Comment 23 by Universeman

They study worms! I kid you not!

Am I missing something? Is that an inside joke like “needs more cowbell”?

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 20:19:40 UTC | #842354

Galatian 4 24's Avatar Comment 24 by Galatian 4 24

"You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."

Sarah Palin October 24th 2008

Sun, 03 Jul 2011 20:36:43 UTC | #845809