Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona), in their paper published in Frontiers of Physics, investigated the similarities between two of the most challenging and complex systems in nature:
the cosmic network of galaxies and the network of neuronal cells in the human brain.
They compared a simulation of the galaxies to sections of the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum.
The goal was to see how matter fluctuations scatter over such different scales.
Above: A slice of cerebellum at 40x magnification (left) and simulated cosmic web at 300 million light-years on each side (right). (University of Bologna)
Franco Vazza explained:
“We calculated the spectral density of both systems. This is a technique often employed in cosmology for studying the spatial distribution of galaxies. Our analysis showed that the distribution of the fluctuation within the cerebellum neuronal network on a scale from 1 micrometer to 0.1 millimeters follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web but, of course, on a larger scale that goes from 5 million to 500 million light-years.”
The team also calculated other parameters that characterize both the neuronal network and the cosmic web: the average number of connections in each node and the tendency of clustering several links in relevant central nodes within the system.
Alberto Feletti said:
“Once again, structural parameters have identified unexpected agreement levels. Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons. These two complex networks show more similarities than those shared between the cosmic web and a galaxy or a neuronal network and the inside of a neuronal body.”