The symphony of sensation

Of course “everybody knows” that nerves use electric impulses to transmit sensations … kind of like Western Union but without all the stagecoaches. One problem with this model is that it doesn’t explain how anesthetics stop nerves from carrying pain signals.

Black & Gold by Andy McFarlane

In A Shocking Idea: Nerves Might Run on Sound, Not Electricity in Wired, Andrew Jackson & Thomas Heimburg, a pair of researchers at the Neils Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark a Niels Bohr biophysicist suggest that nerves operate using high pressure waves, like sound through a pipe.

Their theory, published in the Biophysical Journal, explains how nerves and anesthetics work as follows: Nerves are made of lipids that are liquid at body temperature. A yet-to-be-defined mechanism creates high-pressure, semisolid waves that move through the cells, delivering messages.

Anesthetics, they suggest, lower the temperature at which lipids become solid, making it difficult for the waves to form, thereby preventing nerves from sending pain signals. They also suggest that as the waves travel, they change the shape of the cell membrane, producing the electrical pulse that scientists currently mistake for the primary function of nerve cells.

I have to confess that the part of me that gets almost physically transported by music is nodding its head in time with this…

I looked at a ton of photos of violins and violinists and such, nothing struck me so here’s one I took at the Furniture show in Leland last month of a gorgeous table.

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