The Ecology of Humans (29) Brain Baths & Droughts

Brain Baths & Droughts

Déjà vu comes from a calcium wave. New experiences provoke pattern recognition from similar situations. Piecemeal matches invoke a slight cognitive disruption: a blip reflective trance from inundated astrocytes on the fringe of previous patterns.

Biologically, pleasure takes the form of astrocyte baths. The converse is also true. Humans suffering from chronic depression have fewer cortical astrocytes, as do schizophrenics, and less-intelligent people generally.

Depression may involve a gyral dynamic from lack of stimulation: fewer calcium waves and fewer astrocytes. In contrast, during mania, the incidence of calcium waves may be like an ocean during a hurricane: too roiling, leading to euphoria and hyperactivity.

Lithium has been used to elevate mood: to treat depression and bipolar disorder. Biochemically, lithium is an ionic replacement for potassium and calcium. Robust calcium puffs to stir astrocyte waves are essential for healthy mental functioning.

Those who take lithium report more emotional stability, but also tend to feel “not themselves,” as life’s experiences seem somehow dull and muted. Lithium ions are an ersatz substitute for calcium.

Serotonin is a hormone and brain neurotransmitter that affects mood and social behaviors. Serotonin imbalance has been associated with depression and schizophrenia. Even crayfish get anxious when their serotonin level is not right.

Hallucinations are a common schizophrenic experience. Serotonin may stimulate astrocytes into calcium wave activation of sensory processing without any neural stimulation from the sensory organs. In other words, hallucination comes by serotonin-induced stimulation of astrocytes absent sensation.

Depression treatment commonly comprises ingesting serotonin reuptake inhibitors, to allow serotonin to have a longer-lasting effect. Neurologists hypothesize that this allows longer neuron exposure to serotonin to achieve its mood-altering effect. But astrocytes also perform serotonin reuptake. The effect may be to stimulate astrocyte receptors to release more calcium puffs in the pathways. Extra activation of astrocytes when their numbers are depleted may compensate somewhat.