1
$\begingroup$

I was wondering what happens if we lose all electrical impulses in our nervous system for a minimum amount of time. So first of all it is obvious that we will break together, as we are dead while we are in black out state, but I am interesting in the "afterwards". I could also put it this way: Is our brain like a RAM or a Harddrive? So, if we have a complete elec. blackout, is our memory erased? Or is our consciousness based soly on the synapsis in our brain and does not care about the electrical state?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately I think the premise of this question is flawed - it's impossible to have a purely "electric blackout" in the brain. As soon as you have the biochemical machinery, action potentials and suchlike are automatically generated. The brain is not like a computer. $\endgroup$ – user6682 Oct 7 '14 at 8:38
  • $\begingroup$ It is a theoretical question. As one should notice i just want to know: is our memory coded into the brain only biologically or also physically. $\endgroup$ – user2504380 Oct 7 '14 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_coding The current firing patterns hold information, not just the neural structure of the brain. Additionally, you can cut and restart the power to a harddrive without losing much information - for all we know, the only way to "cut the power" to a human brain is to kill it. $\endgroup$ – user6682 Oct 7 '14 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ Still does not answer my question: "The current firing" patterns hold information", yes i was aware of this and i will read the article, as i didnt yet, however, how relevant are these information for my memory (e.g. my long term memory)? And yes i can cut power of harddrive without losing any information at all and thats just why i set it in contrast to RAM, as RAM needs permament power supply to keep data. And again, it is a theoretical question, i am rly confident that the scenario of a electrical "restart" wont ever happen practically. $\endgroup$ – user2504380 Oct 7 '14 at 9:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, the current electrical activity definitely matters for short-term memory (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17546683). In general, you can't really seperate electrical and structural properties of the brain though, like you can in a computer - even short-term electrical activity induces plasticity which changes the structure and function of the synapse. The structure and function of an electrical circuit remains the same regardless of its use. $\endgroup$ – user6682 Oct 7 '14 at 9:27
2
$\begingroup$

I was wondering what happens if we lose all electrical impulses in our nervous system for a minimum amount of time... if we have a complete elec. blackout, is our memory erased? Or is our consciousness based soly on the synapsis in our brain and does not care about the electrical state?

If "we" includes other animals down to frogs, then the answer may be that the structure could survive. springer.com/article

Preparations with chronically implanted electrodes showed that there are periods during which no electrical activity is present in the brain of intact, non-anesthetized frogs sitting unconstrained in water in a jar. The activity appeared immediately upon stimulation.

The results obtained confirm the suggestion of I. M. Sechenov that the electrical activity of the brain occurs either reflexly, or is due to direct effects on the brain. Without such effects, there is no electrical activity.

As in a flash drive, there should be a distinction between "electrical potential" and "electrical activity"

An "older" part of our brain is named reptilian and extrapolation from the frog would be tempting. I have no background in biology, but since animal models are generally accepted, would say that we may well be the same unless evidence shows us to be different.

To support this intuitively: an instant view of electrical state of our brain would contain many fewer bits of information than the topology of its whole network. paul_wi11iams

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ That is indeed interesting and might answer my question, but i dont know if those frogs have something like an actual memory at all, so it does not convince me yet. "an instant view of electrical state of our brain would contain many fewer bits of information than the topology of its whole network" -> That seems to be highly intuitive indeed as i would not say so at all: every node in our brain-"network" has many possible electrical states on his own, so the actually there should be much more possible electrical states than just biological, i guess. $\endgroup$ – user2504380 Oct 8 '14 at 7:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is no such thing as a brain without any electrical activity, even if a paper from 1962 purportedly shows that without reflexive or direct stimulation, there "is no electrical activity". (It was simply not picked up by his electrodes) Additionally, information theory is only concerned with states or outcomes (which are static descriptions; snapshots), not topologies. See catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam032/98032172.pdf $\endgroup$ – user6682 Oct 8 '14 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ @StrangeLoop Interesting link, but could you elaborate on why you think there's a difference between "no electrical activity" and no electrical activity being picked up by electrodes? I think there's something I'm missing here. $\endgroup$ – Seanny123 Oct 8 '14 at 16:22
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 I can't find a full-text version of the (1962) article right now, and I'm not really that knowledgeable of electricity - but the measurement will naturally depend on the placement of the electrodes and the sensitivity of the measuring device. Even in a frog, it seems highly implausible to me that every single synapse from/to every single one of its (on average) 16,000,000 neurons can be at total equilibrium at any given moment. $\endgroup$ – user6682 Oct 9 '14 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ I seem to get a lot contra on my question. It seems to be, in fact, too unpractical and speculative, maybe senseless. Ill mark your answer as correct as it offers interesting points. $\endgroup$ – user2504380 Oct 14 '14 at 8:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.