posted on Apr, 7 2016 @ 05:43 PM
When I deleted my old account and created this new account, it reflected a change in me that was also essentially a change in interest. The name I
picked - reflective of my interest in neuroscience - was "astrocyte", a star shaped glia cell whose official 'duties' are to produce and pass on
vital molecules to the neurons - the electric cells. The idea of an astrocyte seemed supplementative. It's purpose was not as apparent as that of the
neuron, but the astrocyte, star shaped, for some reason, struck me as an important structure.
In studying more and more the neural basis (or transmission) of consciousness, the role of the Astrocyte has continued to impress me. The all
important NMDA receptor in the brain - basically the molecular structure (protein) that causes the action potential (electrical charge) in neurons,
depends on the gating activity of the Astrocytes production and release of d-serine. D-serine, if you're aren't aware (and you probably aren't) is
the molecule that allows neuroplasticity in dentric-spine pyramidal cells. D-serine, after being released by the astrocyte, diffuses beyond the
initial synapse, essentially allowing continuous excitation of neurons, which, of course, is a neuronal prerequisite of ordinary conscious awareness,
which depends on gamma-wave bursts, produced by the activity of neurons in the 6-layered cortex.
Astrocyte, then, are sort of like conductors, taking the vitality of the body - oxygen and glucose - which it takes from the blood, and feeding
neurons the energy they need to keep their cells going. The astrocyte, in this very abstract sense, could be regarded as a "messenger" from the
gods, or the mother goddess (if you're at all tempted to think in these metaphysical terms); the astrocytes original job evidently was to convert
metabolic processes in the general system of the body (blood carrying oxygen and glucose, among other things) and transmitting the desired molecules
(oxygen/glucose) as well as producing the required molecules to keep the processes of cognition within the animal in harmony with metabolic
An astrocyte, therefore, links mind with body, inasmuch as it converts energy from one type of process (living tissue) into another process (a
perceiving organism), with the latter dynamically linked to the activities of the former. In humans, however, the astrocytes activities have been
promoted to such an extent that the molecule D-serine feeds and keeps alive a consciousness that can ACTIVATE ITS OWN ACTIVITIES, which paradoxically
means promoting the activity of astrocytes (star shaped cells) and their influence on neuronal dendrite growth and electrical stimulation in the brain
Now, for the materialist, this is a certainly strange situation. What, persay, is acting upon the astrocytes production of D-serine? A plausible
answer would be: 'the large scale activity of neurons that entrain the activity of individual cells i.e both neuronal and glial'. This would be
true, since consciousness is correlated with large scale, or macroscopic organization of neuronal bursts. However, for the mind who experiences this
consciousness, who can learn about it and probe it's activities, cannot help but be confronted by the most glaring absurdity: I gain knowledge about
my self as a function of knowing. And knowing also involves feeling alive, with specific affects, which influence the nature of the
knowing. So knowing, in this larger sense, is knowing about what I'm feeling, and how this knowledge can influence the process of bodily and
mental equilibrium. In other words, the type of knowing that I can have about my own mental processes allows changes in molecular functioning and
organization between many different types of cells to perform 'my will', as it were. This, of course, sounds absurd, yet it's true: the mind feeds
into the physical, which then acts upon the mind. Every 150 milliseconds or so, a process such as this is happening in your mind, with your brain
being guided by the cumulative activities of recurrent molecular and psychological processes, a sort of self-hypnosis occurs, where knowledge
could act, but remains inhibited by its ignorance of it's organization.
What is knowledge, and how can this relational and referential property possess such superordinate organizing power? I suspect the idea of
'knowledge' equals power is true, yet naive. Not just any knowledge equals power, since knowledge, as an abstract idea, is not real. Whats real are
the ecological conditions that make real any form of knowledge, such as astronomically complex molecular processes that renew our being, and the fact
that these processes linked up with other processes in other creatures (who were like us, no less) and each inclined to the other as if the
only coherent road forward was matching and fitting the needs of the self with the identical needs of other selves, so that a virtual self-other
This is what knowledge means. Knowledge entails all the contingent factors that precede us on our evolutionary road to humanhood. Knowledge, right
now, is a de-novo creation of a uniquely situated mind at a unique point in history. But what is the past and the meaning of the past in making
possible, in a way that seems so unlikely, a being as complex and spiritual as ourselves? Why do we insist on spatial and temporal closure? Why is
time and space so strong, making our thinking impossibly hard without recruiting redundancy and circularity as basic elements?
Many traditions have spoken of the world or reality being spiral like, and we say this because its repetitive in structure, yet seems to have the
capacity to bring about new and even more subtle things, forcing into our mind an image of a circle that doesn't mindlessly replicate but has some
sort of goal or purpose, implicit in the beginning and present in every element. Evolution, then, is a construction within time and space of some
primal unity, with each part in the spatial and temporal dimension defined by its relation to the other.
When I picked this name Astrocye, my inclinations were superficial and largely based on attractions like the denoted 'star'. Years later, when
thinking about this name, I believe my attraction was simultaneously superficial and deep. The superficial focus on it's being a 'star' and my
liking the overall shape of the cell, dovetails with the functional purpose of this cell, which is to 'feed consciousness' and promote expansion,
change and psychological growth. My wish, and basically my life focus, has been to help other people understand the nature of their being, and to
recognize how dissociation arising from evolutionary biases keeps us from recognizing the long-term consequences of negative short-term behaviors. The
capacity to "inhibit" the inclination of the present seems hogtied to a capacity to represent cognitively a reason for doing so.
Consciousness, at least where we live, requires knowledge for its transformation. And knowledge, of course, is the reorganization of this mysterious
universal dynamic - life and mind - into a coherent, moral, direction.