Glial Cells, Junk DNA, Dark Matter, and Autism

I only use 10% of my brain?

When I was a kid, the rumor was that even the smartest people only use 10% of their brains. Einstein was said to be such a genius because he used 15% of his remarkable brain. I thought this was pretty nutty. Surely 85-90% of a person’s brain isn’t just stuffing. Nature doesn’t waste space. If survival of the fittest is the rule, I would think that an organism that has a brain with useless cells taking up space, would quickly die out. There is nothing extra about the shark or the sleek puma, whose bodies and brains are adapted to survive in a competitive world.

The same type of nerve cells that transmit a signal from one’s brain to one’s leg are used on a smaller scale, to talk amongst themselves inside the brain. Maybe the non-neuronal stuffing inside the head is needed to feed and otherwise maintain the precious brain neurons. Ninety percent to care for the top ten percent? Sounds like our present society where the 99% supports the 1%. Could nature be as inefficient as human society? Say it ain’t so!

What if we just flipped our premise on its head? Instead of believing that the brain works only with cells whose function we understand, what if we said that we don’t know what 90% of the brain does?

Scientists have been making some strides, however, in understanding the rest of the brain. Recent studies have shown that non-neuronal cells in the brain called glia are not just stuffing, and serve more of a purpose than just care and maintenance of the neurons. It so happens that glial cells respond to chemical changes initiated by firing of neurons. Apparently, there is another realm of communication in the brain in addition to the electrical impulses conducted by neurons. [1]

Junk DNA

DNA is the molecule of life. It is self-replicating and responsible for building proteins required by living organisms. It encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms. [2] Over 98% of the human genome is noncoding DNA. [3] Many of the functions of noncoding DNA sequences are known, but a significant percentage of them have no known function. Scientists call these sequences “junk DNA”. [4] The same argument of survival of the fittest should hold for DNA sequences, which after all, control the development of the organism. It stands to reason that any sequence that does not contribute to the survival of the organism should not survive.

There is continuing controversy about whether junk DNA has a function. [5] [6] However, scientists are discovering that junk DNA can play a significant role in controlling cell development. “This discovery, involving what was previously referred to as “junk,” opens up a new level of gene expression control that could also play a role in the development of many other tissue types…” [7]

Dark matter

Dark matter is a type of matter estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe. [8] Dark matter cannot be seen; cosmologists inferred its existence “by fitting a theoretical model of the composition of the universe to the combined set of cosmological observations.” [9] However, there are speculations about the composition of dark matter: “These possibilities are known as massive compact halo objects, or ‘MACHOs’. But the most common view is that dark matter is… made up of other, more exotic particles like … WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles)” [10]

What do we actually know?

Apparently, not much. Scientists are only now unraveling the function of 90% of the brain’s cells; the scientific establishment calls unknown sequences of DNA in existence for thousands of millennia, ‘junk DNA’; the best guess of cosmologists is that 85% of the universe is made up of unseen MACHOs and WIMPs.

I believe that Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of everything is crap, holds for human endeavors. Although one can’t generalize, it does seem that mankind does not know much about some very important issues. Based on the examples above, I formulated a corollary of Sturgeon’s Law: We don’t know crap about 90% of everything.

Autism

As I always do, I try to relate my thinking to the problems of autism. The fact that there is no unifying theory about the cause of autism may mean that it is the end result of several different processes. It also might mean that underlying biological and environmental principles exist, but have not yet been discovered.

Even if underlying causes are not found, society can benefit from a diversity of minds. Plenty of management courses emphasize ‘thinking outside the box’ to encourage novel approaches to problem solving. Imagine if it becomes possible on a large scale, to find a way to tap into the autistic world and communicate in such a way to see the world differently ourselves.

5 thoughts on “Glial Cells, Junk DNA, Dark Matter, and Autism

  1. Pingback: Humanity is but a scale. . . | Free psychology

  2. Pingback: It’s pretty likely that any woman who has been pregnant is a chimera – Nadia |

  3. Pingback: The Ancient and Occult Genetic Code | ageoflucidity.info

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