death and the connectome

Quick post about a well done story in the NY Times on Sebastian Seung’s and other’s efforts at mapping the connectome, the connections between neurons or the white matter, not the grey.  Here is the link:;  and here is a picture:

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

Going back to my cauliflower model (and no, buying it did not exhaust my budget for the year as some have wondered), imagine if all the florets were missing and just the interconnections were present, different colors for different neurotransmitters.  Consider that the brain has 10,000,000,000 neurons and each of those can have a thousand or more connections–that is the connectome.  Gonna need some kind of computer power there. A good read.

And here is a story that contributes to Seung’s inspiration.  A young woman in Norway had a skiing accident in which she tumbled a good ways down and then crashed through the ice covering a stream.  It was an hour or so before her friends could retrieve her body.  She was dead; her body temp was in the 50s F, but they airlifted her to a hospital where they slowly warmed her body up and then her heart started beating again.  She had to undergo much rehab but she more or less fully recovered, her personality and memories and her ability to work as a doctor all intact. So despite all loss of metabolism and activity, her brain, its neurons and their connectome, preserved her identity and knowledge.  No word of her memory or perception of the death or near death experience.  How this could occur is currently a mystery Dr. Seung and the rest of us can enjoy.

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