An Italian astrophysicist and neurosurgeon have found striking similarities when comparing the neural cell network of the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies.
Despite the substantial difference in scale between the two networks (more than 27 orders of magnitude), the analysis of Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona), who is in the crossroads of cosmology and neurosurgery, suggests that various physical processes can build structures characterized by similar levels of complexity and self-organization.
The human brain works thanks to its vast neural network which is estimated to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe is made up of a cosmic network of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are made up of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons are arranged in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both systems, 70% of the mass or energy distribution is made up of components that play an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe.
From the shared characteristics of the two systems, the researchers compared a simulation of the galaxy network with sections of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. The objective was to observe how the fluctuations of matter spread out on such diverse scales. They publish results in ‘Frontiers in Physics’.
“We calculated the spectral density of both systems. This is a technique that is often used in cosmology to study the spatial distribution of galaxies,” explains Franco Vazza. “Our analysis showed that the distribution of fluctuation within the cerebellum neural network on a scale from 1 micrometer to 0.1 millimeter follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web but, of course, on a larger scale from 5 million to 500 million light years. ”
The two researchers also calculated some parameters that characterize both the neural network and the cosmic network: the average number of connections at each node and the tendency to cluster several connections at relevant central nodes within the network.
“Once again, structural parameters have identified unexpected levels of agreement. Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers that regulate galaxies and neurons, “adds Alberto Feletti.” These two complex networks show more similarities than the two. shared between the cosmic network and a galaxy or a neural network and the interior of a neuronal body “.
The results of this pilot study are prompting researchers to think that new and effective analysis techniques in both fields, cosmology and neurosurgery, will allow a better understanding of the routed dynamics underlying the temporal evolution of these two systems.