An Epic Journey through the Brain in 2.8 Seconds
A totally original snapshot of how the brain works that takes readers to the cutting edge of neuroscience research.
Our brains use electricity to communicate. Each nerve cell, each neuron, talks to other neurons by sending a tiny blip of voltage down a gossamer thin cable. Neuroscientists call that blip ‘the spike’. And spikes are how we do anything: talk, eat and run; see, plan and decide.
In The Spike, Mark Humphries takes us on the journey of a single spike in a single act, from seeing to thinking to moving. Even in these few seconds, more than 10 billion spikes will fire all across the brain. As he follows just one spike across just a few moments in time, we meet dark neurons, the literal silent majority, who sit unmoved by anything and everything going on around them. They are invisible to neuroimaging, and challenge our most deeply held theories of what neurons do. We meet spontaneous spikes: spikes created by neurons without any input from the outside world; spikes created solely by the myriad feedback loops between neurons that drive each other to spike endlessly. Crazier still are spikes born without any input even to the neuron that created them, spikes created solely by the internal cycling of molecules inside a neuron. We encounter layers upon layers of mystery and wonder and almost unimaginable complexity.
New technologies have begun to draw back the curtain on this neuronal drama, and every day new research upends our understanding of how neurons talk to each other. Of how we see, of how we decide, of how we move. But until now we've had no big-picture narrative; no story of how all our discoveries fit together. The Spike tells that story.