The NEURON & NEURAL SYSTEM
THEMES & DISCOVERIES OF THIS WORK
by JAMES T FULTON
Last Update 02 July 2011
Rhodonine™ and Activa™: See Citation Page
MAJOR THEMES DEFINING THE ELECTROLYTIC THEORY OF THE NEURON
One of the primary reasons for preparing this text, which grew beyond all expectations, was to provide a sufficiently broad base to successfully challenge the conventional wisdom concerning the neural system. The result has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. The result is a new contiguous model (founded on chemistry, physics and mathematics) of the neural system that differs substantially and fundamentally from the previous conventional wisdom (largely conceptual and based largely on discrete (floating) models of the Neuron and the Neural System. Many of these variances are summarized on this page. Hyperlinks are provided to more detailed discussions and secondary findings.
The most important differences are summarized in the following sections:
- the five major differences related to basic chemistry, physics and electronics are described as PARADIGM SHIFTS
- these major differences lead to a longer list of about fifteen MAJOR AXIOMS
that have evolved following the development of the paradigm shifts.
- a long list is also included in the subsequent section,
AN EXPANSION OF THE NEURON DOCTRINE
To understand the material to follow, it is useful to provide A restated Neuron Doctrine of Cajal compatible with his proposal but recognizing the tremendous expansion in knowledge since the early 20th Century.
- The neuron is the fundamental biologically sustainable unit of the nervous system. It is the minimum viable cellular structure.
- Each neuron contains one or more fundamental functional (signaling) units.
- Each fundamental functional unit consists of an active electrolytic semiconductor device, an Activa (US Patent #5,946,185), supported by its peripheral electrolytic components including the required power supply elements.
- Each neuron connects to one or more orthodromic neurons or to one or more neuroaffectors interfacing with the hormonal or muscular systems.
- The simplest neuron is described fully as a three-terminal electrolytic circuit.
The three terminal Activa is the fundamental building block of the nervous
system and accounts for the detailed performance of the neurons, the synapses and the
Nodes of Ranvier.
FUNDAMENTAL PARADIGM SHIFTS SUPPORTING THE THEORY
To aid in understanding this work, it is useful to provide a roadmap of the premises
developed within it. It is only by comprehending these premises as a group that
the overall work can be considered and the scope of the entire work can be appreciated.
The fundamental principles underlying the Paradigm Shift of this work are five.
- All neural (and in fact all biological) tissue exists in the liquid-crystalline state of matter in-vivo.
- Treating neural or biological tissue as in the solid or liquid state of matter leads to erroneous results.
- All mechanisms operating within the neural system are deterministic.
- Variations measured empirically are due to thermodynamic variation or test set limitations (noise).
- The fundamental neurolemma is a phospholipid bilayer where each bilayer is amphiphilic
- The resulting fundamental neurolemma is a barrier to both hydrophilic and lipophilic materials.
- The fundamental neurolemma is impervious to the hydrophilic alkali and alkali-earth ions, such as sodium and potassium
- The fundamental neurolemma is a barrier to all electrical charges and forms a near perfect capacitor.
- A modified (type 2) neurolemma forms a near perfect semiconducting electrical diode while remaining a barrier to all ionic and molecular transport.
- A modified (type 3) neurolemma supports the transfer of electrically neutral molecules through the lemma.
- The Laws of Semiconductor Physics apply to liquid-crystalline semiconducting (type 2) neurolemma.
- Specific juxtaposition of two type 2 neurolemma lead to an "Active Electrolytic Device."
- Application of the appropriate electrical potentials to an Active Electrolytic Device results in
transistor-action" and electrical signal amplification.
AXIOMS AND COROLLARIES DEVELOPED IN THIS WORK
An attempt will be made to list these premises in a quasi hierarchal manner beginning
in object space and proceeding toward the cortex. However, the system deviates
substantially from a single topological signaling path, or even parallel
topological paths. The bold roman numerals, e.g. (II), at the start of a subject indicates it is directly
related to the above section on PARADIGM SHIFTS
These premises were developed in conjunction with the development of the various
block and circuit diagrams of vision and are based on the data in the literature. The
premises are confirmed by the ability of a new set of performance descriptors to
define the performance of the visual system with a precision not found elsewhere. All
of these performance descriptors can be filtered to emulate the performance
previously measured in the laboratory with less than adequate instrumentation or
experimental design. Many of these premises can be confirmed by the reader, in an anecdotal
manner, using the simple tests defined at this web site.
In the course of formalizing this work, several fundamental discoveries have been made. They are summarized below:
- the neural system is based fundamentally on electrolytic chemistry (rather than the ionic or electrodic branches of the more general "electro-chemistry" or "chemistry").
- The neurolemma is not porous to charged ions and the ionic chemistry of Nernst, Donnan & Goldman plays a negligible role in the operation of the neural system.
- the discovery of the active biological semiconductor device that is the equivalent of the solid state transistor.
- This device, the Activa, is the key to the operation of the animal nervous system. It is the mechanism underlying the apparent excitability of biological membranes. With the Activa, and a recognition of the passive role the cell membrane plays, the first foundation is established for the Hodgkin-Huxley equations. More
- the discovery that a neuron is a three-terminal device.
- The nominal neuron exhibits three electrolytic structures, the dendritic input structure, the poditic input structure (most easily recognized as the second of the "bi-stratified" dendritic trees in many neurons) and the axonal output structure. More
- the discovery that the "gap junction" is itself an Activa.
- The gap junction is found to be the principal interface between neurons of the animal nervous system. With this discovery, it possible to explain the nearly perfect coupling for the signal current provided by the gap junction. It is also possible to explain the function of the various metabolites in the vicinity of the junction. The "soup or sparks" debate is rationalized. More
- the discovery that the neural system can be described as an orderly system of modules, and that it employs common neural circuits across a wide range of sensory and operating modalities.
- The neural system of the human is highly plastic during the first few years of life.
- Modules can be reassigned new roles under control of the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN)
the discovery that more than 95% of the neurons in the neural system operate as analog circuit elements.
- All neural circuits employed in sensing, cognition and neuro-affectation operate in the analog mode. More
- Less than 5% of the neurons of a mammal employ pulse signaling techniques. More
the discovery that the neural system is fundamentally nonlinear.
- It employs the diode (an exponential electrolytic device) as its primary electrical element.
- The diodes are used in a large signal mode that employs their exponential current-voltage characteristic.
the discovery that the neural system employs two distinct "executives."
- The first is the conscious (or high level) executive of sensation and volition found in the prefrontal cortex. The second is the aconscious (or low level) executive operating as the unseen and unperceived coordinator of all physiological functions found in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN).
- In many cases, the aconscious executive can control the information presented to the conscious executive
the discovery of a new family of retinoids, the Rhodonines, that are the four actual chromophores (sensory receptors) of animal vision.
- The existence of this family solves the longstanding problem of the exact nature of the chromophores and eliminates the protein Opsin from the equation. With their elucidation, it is now possible to establish closed form equations for nearly every phenomena in animal vision. Many of these equations eliminate previously held assumptions from further consideration. More
the discovery that the tectorial membrane is a passive element in the operation of the cochlea of hearing, supporting the critical role of Hensen's stripe.
This discovery has led to the application of the Marcatili Effect to explain the frequency selection process employed in hearing, and to the elimination of any need for mechanical force amplification and feedback within the cochlea.More
the discovery of the four gustaphores of taste and the encoding of all taste stimuli into a three-dimensional sensation space.
- This has led to the coordination of the myriad behavioral studies on taste sensations, and the rational explanation for the putative role of a fifth gustaphore related to the label, "umami." More
the discovery that the olfaction modality relies upon coordinate chemistry and the dipole potential of specific stimulants to create an overall sensation in a multi-dimensional olfaction space (estimated 15-25 dimensions).
- This finding has rationalized the very limited, and largely speculative, concepts related to the olfactory modality in the literature. It has also led to a fundamental framework explaining the potential for multiple olfactophores in a single molecular stimulant. More
the discovery of the fundamentally unique form of neuro-mylo-cyte employed in the heart of animals.
The neural system is powered by a unique set of amino acids
- The cardiac myocyte includes the functions of a neuron and is more properly labeled a cardiocyte.
- While not resulting in any great change in the direction of neural research, it does rationalize the understanding of cardiac operation. More
- The two acidic amino acids, glutamate & aspartate, provide the (principle) negative potential powering each neuron of the neural system
- No other rational for the existence of only these two acidic amino acids has been discovered.
- One of three basic amino acids, lysine, provides the positive potential required to bias some specific neurons, particularly the cardiocytes (cardiac myocytes).
- In-vitro experiments without the amino acids in the bathing solution will fail after a short interval. More
Additional Supporting Corollaries
The following material is keyed to and called by the above Axioms.
The Activa, an active electrolytic semiconductor
device, is the fundamental neural mechanism.,
- The Activa is a more fundamental functional unit than the neuron.
- Many neurons incorporate more than one Activa.
- Each Node of Ranvier is the site of an Activa within a neuron.
- The synapse between two neurons is the site of one or more Activa.
- Many synapses employ an array of individual Activa in order to achieve
greater power handling capability, just as in man-made transistor devices.
- The Activa exhibits "transistor action" identical to that in a man-made
- The Activa can provide signal amplification.
- The Activa, coupled to its supporting electrolytic circuit elements, can provide internal negative feedback.
The signal projection system of chordates employs a very sophisticated
spatial and temporal encoding system. .
- The system is deterministic. Nearly, if not, all of the useful information
gleaned by the sensory neurons is delivered to the information extraction neurons of the central nervous system (CNS).
- Speaking of many-to-one encoding as a lossy signaling approach indicates
a lack of understanding of the fundamental encoding scheme. More
The vast majority of the neurons in a given animal are operated in the analog mode.
- Only the signal projection neurons operate in the pulse mode
(generating "Action Potentials")
- There are vastly more signal processing neurons in the peripheral
nervous system than signal projection neurons.
- There are vastly more signal sensing neurons than projection neurons.
- There are vastly more signal manipulation neurons in the central nervous system
than projection neurons.More
The fundamental mechanism displayed by a neuron is not the excitability of the
axolemma. It is the "excitability, i. e. transistor action" achieved at the
junction between two lemmas.
- The activity found at a junction between a neurolemma and an orthodromic axon is
frequently found within a neuron near, but independent of, the soma.
- The activity found at a junction between an axolemma and an orthodromic neurolemma is
generally associated with a synapse.
- The activity found at a Node of Ranvier is a hybrid situation. It is formed
as the result of a conduit acting as an axolemma at its input end and a neurolemma at its output end. The structure
is frequently described as an interaxon or axon segment. The result is two conduits forming an electrolytic
junction (resulting in the creation of an Activa). More
The so-called voltage clamp configuration has not been well characterized in
the past. The circuit diagrams of this work, reachable from the Navigation Bar,
illustrate at least five fundamentally different operating states obtainable
by implementing the standard voltage clamp protocol.
- The actual axolemma of the subject neuron, unencumbered by ancillary
electrostenolytic processes is a passive element in these experiments (as
befits its simple biochemical structure).
- The absolute steady state voltages measured by the instrumentation in this
experiment are a function of the dendroplasm and the podaplasm of the Activa
associated with the axon under evaluation.
- If all of the dendrite related material, including the dendroplasm, is
successfully removed from the neuron under test, the steady state axoplasm
potential will remain fixed.
- Under this condition, the transient response of the voltage of the
axoplasm in response to a voltage pulse applied to the same axoplasm is
described by a complex but totally passive impedance network made up of only
capacitors and diodes (any resistive components present of biological origin
can be ignored).
- The above response is complicated by the fact that the instantaneous
resistivities of the diodes present are functions of the voltage on the
- The resulting response is similar to that obtained in parametric pumping
used in man-made microwave signal manipulation circuits.
There are four fundamental types of electrolytic circuits within the
- There are highly specialized signal sensing neurons at the periphery of
the system which generally contain multiple Activa in unique circuit configurations.
- There are signal manipulation neurons found in both the peripheral and the
central nervous system which generally contain only one internal (three terminal)
Activa plus a large number of Activas associated with the terminals of their
- There are signal projection neurons (typically called ganglion cells),
located in both the central and peripheral neural systems, that contain a
series of Activa located at each Node of Ranvier.
- There are neuroaffector neurons that are the primary interface with both the muscle system and the hormonal system. More
The operation of the projection neurons of the neural system (such as the
ganglion cells of the retina) are poorly understood.
- The literature has not clarified the difference between the phase velocity
of neural signals along the conductors of the neurons, neurites and axons, and the
group velocity represented by the average signal velocity between two
topographically (morphologically) similar points separated by one or more
Nodes of Ranvier.
- Whereas the group velocity of a neural signal may be only 44 meters/second,
the typical phase velocity is 4400 meters/second (both at 37 Celsius).
- A large amount of time is lost in the signal regeneration process within the
Node of Ranvier.
- The Node of Ranvier operates as a signal regenerator, not a signal amplifier.
Although the output waveform of a Node of Ranvier appears similar to the output from the
Activa near the soma of a typical ganglion neuron, it is a fundamentally
independent electrical circuit with its own electrical parameters.
- The nominal time lost is the time between the time the input signal reaches a
critical amplitude threshold and the time the output signal reaches its peak value.
This time is typically 0.19 milliseconds. More
The magnitude of these discoveries clearly supports the assertion that a paradigm shift has occurred in our understanding of the neural system.
FINDINGS RELATED TO THE NEURAL SYSTEM
I. The neural system is electolytically rather than chemically based.
The neural system consists of a series of electrolytic conduits separated by Activas, active electrolytic semiconductor devices similar to transistors.
The equilibrium laws of Nernst, Donnan, Goldman and Hodgkin & Huxley do not apply to neurons.
Based on the knowledge gained since the 1950's, it is clear that the biological bilayer membrane used to form the neural conduits is not permeable to ions. These membranes can be symmetrical at the molecular level in which case they are also impermeable to fundamental electrical charges. If they are asymmetrical at the molecular level, they remain impermeable to ions but are electrically asymmetrical and semiconductive to fundamental charged particles (electrons and holes).
The asymmetry of the biological bilayer membrane to electrons is clear proof of the existance of a variable electrical field within the membrane. Such a field is inconsistent with the fundamental assumption of a constant electrical field used in the derivation of the Nernst, Donnan, Goldman and Hodgkin & Huxley equilibrium equations.
II. The argument over a chemical versus electronic synapse is over
The vast majority, if not all, synapses are fundamentally electrolytic and contain an Activa.
The electrolytic hypothesis provides detailed answers to questions about the synapse. These same questions can not even be expressed under the chemical hypothesis.
FINDINGS RELATED TO THE CORTEX AND MID-BRAIN
Great strides are being made at this time in our understanding of the brain. Only
particularly relevant comments will be made here.
The cortex consists of an essentially two dimensional laminate of about six
layers in thickness. Each small region of the two dimensional surface consists
of functional sites defined as engines in this work. These engines are interconnected
in a n-pointed star configuration that allows efficient interconnection between
any two nodes of the star network. The engines associated with a given function
tend to be located within a specific area. The location and inter-relation of
the various areas appears to have been chosen on architectural and signal handling grounds.
II. The signal processing within the brain is concentrated in a
large number of processing engines
The signal processing function within the cortex appears to be concentrated
in an uncountable number of individual signal processing engines. Most of the engines
related to vision can be described as extraction engines that implement various
extraction mechanisms (or signal processing routines). Additional engines, particularly
in the frontal lobe of the brain can be considered cognitive engines implementing other routines.
Engines along the intersection of the frontal lobe and occipital lobe appear to
be primarily involved in the generation of neural signals to control the body.
They can be considered implementation engines.
III. The bandwidth of the signal paths within an engine are very
Many neural paths in the peripheral neural system consist of a single nerve carrying vord-serial/bit-serial information. However, many neural paths within the central nervous system, and some peripheral signal processing engines, employ multiple nerves in parallel to provide word-serial/bit-parallel information. The capacity of word-serial/bit-parallel paths is much higher.
The bandwidth of the majority of the skeletal and sensory nervous system is
apparently limited by the tradeoff between signal bandwidth and signal transmission
velocity with the instantaneous availability of electrical power as a parameter.
The bandwidth of the neural paths within the individual engines of the cortex,
and possibly other portions of the brain are not limited by the above constraint
(although inter-communications paths are).
Because of the extremely short signal paths found within a given engine, the
limiting signal bandwidth of a circuit can be very high. This allows the signal processing
within an engine to proceed at a much higher, and asynchronous, rate than in the
peripheral and interconnecting nervous system. Although not quantified to date, the noise spectrum
associated with the background obtained when recording signals from the cortex
suggest the maximum rate may be on the order of a megahertz or higher.
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