Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/15/human_brain_like_us_elections/

Human brain 'works like US presidential elections'

If only you could kill those with beer, too

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 15th September 2009 16:11 GMT

American brain specialists, in an announcement which may explain many puzzling aspects of human behaviour, say that the human bonce's decision-making process functions in a very similar way to US presidential elections.

William Kath and Nelson Spruston, of Northwestern Uni in Illinois, discovered the so-called “two-layer integration model" within brain cells using electron microscopy. Northwestern mouthpieces say that the two-layer system as used by neurons is similar to the way the US "electoral college" selects the president.

In the US electoral college, people in the many states vote using various different systems - "winner takes all", congressional district, dimpled chads etc - to choose electors who then select candidates for president. The electors are generally compelled to say in advance who they will choose for prez, though in rare cases they have actually voted differently.

In the brain, it seems that each dendritic branch attached to a neuron is the equivalent of a state, receiving thousands of signals from its dendrites but sending just one onward. The branch signals are then aggregated in a fashion similar to the electoral college - but speedier and less plagued by fist-eatingly tedious TV coverage. A single signal is then sent out by the neuron along its axon, in the equivalent of a president being chosen.

According to Northwestern Uni, after the as-it-were presidential brain election "the result could be an output in the form of an impulse, or action potential, or no action at all".

In Britain, of course, the prime minister is selected by a variety of different methods. Sometimes there is an general election process where people vote for MPs and this knocks on almost directly to select the PM. On other occasions (as we have now) a leader is chosen by the MPs of one party only without any consultation of the citizenry, as though neurons had lost most of their dendrites - a condition which causes a variety of terrible brain problems.

The Northwestern boffinry can be read by subscribers to the journal Neuron here. ®

Bootnote

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