repost: Scientists say nerves use sound, not electricity

Last updated 2/5/2014 10:49 pm @ Miao-Li, Taiwan – My nerdy friends will enjoy this bit.  The news and the book was published in 2007.  But I would think it is still pretty cutting edge.  The thinking is much different than the traditional view.  I noticed Mr. Thomas Heimburg has published a big book about his research on membranes.  If I had more time I might pick up a copy just to browse through it.  Check out the description: http://www.amazon.com/Thermal-Biophysics-Membranes-Tutorials/dp/3527404716

bookBook Description

Publication Date: September 4, 2007 | ISBN-10: 3527404716 | ISBN-13: 978-3527404711 | Edition: 1
An overview of recent experimental and theoretical developments in the field of the physics of membranes, including new insights from the past decade.
The author uses classical thermal physics and physical chemistry to explain our current understanding of the membrane. He looks at domain and ‘raft’ formation, and discusses it in the context of thermal fluctuations that express themselves in heat capacity and elastic constants. Further topics are lipid-protein interactions, protein binding, and the effect of sterols and anesthetics. Many seemingly unrelated properties of membranes are shown to be intimately intertwined, leading for instance to a coupling between membrane state, domain formation and vesicular shape. This also applies to non-equilibrium phenomena like the propagation of density pulses during nerve activity.
Also included is a discussion of the application of computer simulations on membranes.
For both students and researchers of biophysics, biochemistry, physical chemistry, and soft matter physics.

About the Author

Thomas Heimburg received his Ph.D. in physics and his habilitation in biophysics both from the Physics Department of the University of G?ngen, Germany. He was a Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in G?ngen and head of the independent research group “Membrane Biophysics & Thermodynamics”. He was appointed associate professor in the Physics Department of the University of G?ngen. Now he is associate professor for biophysics at the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen and head of the Membrane Biophysics Group.
His primary research interests are experimental and theoretical thermodynamics and spectroscopy of artificial and biological membranes with a special focus on cooperative phenomena in biomembranes.

source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/scientists-say-nerves-use-sound-not-electricity-1.671526

Scientists say nerves use sound, not electricity

CBC News Posted: Mar 09, 2007 7:13 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 09, 2007 7:13 PM ET

The common view that nerves transmit impulses through electricity is wrong and they really transmit sound,according toateam of Danish scientists.

The Copenhagen University researchersargue thatbiology and medical textbooks that say nerves relay electrical impulses from the brain to the rest of the body are incorrect.

“For us as physicists, this cannot be the explanation,” said Thomas Heimburg, an associate professor at the university’s Niels Bohr Institute. “The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced.”

Heimburg, an expert in biophysics who received his PhD from the Max Planck Institute in Goettingen, Germany — where biologists and physicists often work together in a rare arrangement — developed the theory with Copenhagen University’s Andrew Jackson, an expert in theoretical physics.

According to the traditional explanation of molecular biology, an electrical pulse is sent from one end of the nerve to the other with the help of electrically charged salts that pass through ion channels and a membrane that sheathes the nerves. That membrane is made of lipids and proteins.

Heimburg and Jackson theorize that sound propagation is a much more likely explanation. Although sound waves usually weaken as they spread out, a medium with the right physical properties could create a special kind of sound pulse or “soliton” that can propagate without spreading or losing strength.

The physicists say because the nerve membrane is made of a material similar to olive oil that can change from liquid to solid through temperature variations, they can freeze and propagate the solitons.

The scientists, whose work is in the Biophysical Society’s Biophysical Journal,suggested that anesthetics change the melting point of the membrane and make it impossible for their theorized sound pulses to propagate.

The researchers could notimmediately be reached for comment.

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