An astrophysicist from the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon from the University of Verona have compared the network of neural cells in the human brain to the cosmic network of galaxies and found surprising similarities between them. The research results are published by the journal Frontiers in Physics.
Franco Vazza, an astrophysicist at the University of Bologna and Alberto Feletti, a neurosurgeon at the University of Verona, studied the similarities between the two most complex systems in nature: a cosmic network of galaxies and a network of neural cells in the human brain.
Despite the significant difference in scale between the two networks, their analysis suggests that different physical processes can create structures characterized by the same levels of complexity and self-service.
The human brain functions thanks to its vast neural network, which is believed to contain about 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe is made up of a cosmic network of at least 100 billion galaxies. In both systems, only 30% of their mass is made up of galaxies and neurons. In both systems, galaxies and neurons form long fibers, or nodes, between them. Finally, in both systems, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy consists of components that play a clearly passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable universe.
Based on the similarities between the two systems, the researchers compared the modeling of a network of galaxies with regions of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. The goal is to study the fluctuations of matter on such different scales.
“We calculated the spectral density of both systems,” explains Franco Vazza. – Our analysis has shown that the distribution of oscillations in the neural network of the cerebellum on a scale from 1 micron to 0.1 mm follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web. On a larger scale, of course, from 5 million to 500 million light-years.”
The two researchers also calculated some parameters that characterize both the neural network and the cosmic web: the average number of connections at each node and the tendency for multiple connections to cluster at the corresponding central nodes within the network. Once again, the structural parameters revealed unexpected levels of agreement. The interconnection within the two networks is likely to evolve according to similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical forces that govern galaxies and neurons, the scientists conclude.