“So God created man in his own image” –Genesis 1:27
Two Italian scientists found surprising similarities in the network of neuronal cells in the human brain and the network of galaxies in the cosmos.
The human brain is composed of a hierarchical network of neurons clustered into circuits, columns, and different interconnected functional areas. The structure of the neuronal network allows the linking between different areas, all devoted to process specific spatiotemporal activities over their neurons, forming the physical and biological basis of cognition.
The Universe, according to the large collection of telescope data gathered over many decades, is composed of large groups or clusters of galaxies, filaments, matter sheets, and voids, in a large-scale web in all directions in space.
In their paper published on November 16, 2020, in Frontiers in Physics, “The Quantitative Comparison Between the Neuronal Network and the Cosmic Web,” Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) conducted a quantitative analysis of the neuronal and galactic networks and found that, despite the substantial difference in scale between the two networks of more than 27 orders of magnitude, their structures are characterized by similar levels of complexity and self-organization. Those similarities include:
- The human brain’s neuronal network contains approximately 69 billion neurons; the observable universe is composed of a web of at least 100 billion galaxies.
- Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of neurons and galaxies.
- Within both systems, neurons and galaxies arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments.
- Within both systems, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe.
- Comparing a simulation of the network of galaxies to sections of the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum to calculate the spectral density of both systems, the two scientists found that the distribution of matter fluctuations within the cerebellum neuronal network follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web. The only difference was a difference in scale: In the human cerebellum the scale is from 1 micrometer to 0.1 millimeters; in the Universe, the scale is from 5 million to 500 million light-years.
- The neuronal and galactic networks are also similar in the average number of connections in each node, and in the tendency of clustering several connections in relevant central nodes within the network.
Vazza and Feletti conclude:
The tantalizing degree of similarity that our analysis exposes seems to suggest that the self-organization of both complex systems is likely being shaped by similar principles of network dynamics, despite the radically different scales and processes at play…. [The] similarities [found in this study] are meant to motivate the development of more powerful and discriminating algorithms to pinpoint analogies and differences of these fascinating systems, almost at the conceivable extremes of spatial scales in the Universe.