i decided that i was going to stray from the suggested topic this week, because i have had something on my mind for a while now. What i have been wondering is: if life is random, then how could the nervous system, a very complex and intricate system, have just randomly come together and be able to do all that it does? I wonder why there are not any more problems that arise for the average person because there are so many levels at which information can be lost or mutated.

Every individual person is basically defined by their nervous system, for it controls all the behaviors that the person performs. It controls who we are and what we do. And the nervous system controls all this by transporting information in and out at an extremely rapid speed, and, on the average, with very little difficulty. The input usually remains intact when passed on from neuron to neuron, and produces the correct output. This is simply amazing to me. I don't understand how this can happen. For example, if you have ever played the game "telephone" where everyone gets in a circle, and one person starts out by saying a sentence, and the sentence is transfered from person to person, until it finally reaches the original speaker. I have never played this game and had the passed-around sentence be the exact same as the original sentence. Yet the nervous system effectively does this exact same thing, with few mistakes.

One of the things which i believe helps transmit this information so effectively is that the information is distributed throughout the nervous system and many neurons are activated with the same information. Maybe this allows for some neurons to lose the information and still have the end message arrive at its destination. It also probably helps that there are divided pathways for inputs and outputs so they don't get confused. Yet even with this information, i still don't see how more information doesn't get sent to the wrong location or that an incorrect message is sent. Its possible that there are millions of messages being transmitted, and maybe a good number of them do get lost, but the ones that are safely sent are enough to allow us to act properly, and we are able to tell carry out our every-day duties. the nervous system maintains the ability to move our arms so that we put food in our mouths instead of all over our faces. I just keep waiting for the day when too much of the information in my nervous system is blocked by some substance or a huge chain of neurons get confused and i start spasming in all kinds of weird ways. but for the time being, my neurons seem to be working fine, because i was able to type this essay and coordinate all the neurons in my brain with the ones in my fingers... but don't ask me how.

Very interesting (and appropriate) set of questions/concerns. Without a full answer, but we can (and will) talk about parts. The first thing to remember is that the nervous system isn't really in the business of faithfully transmitting signals from point A to point B to point C. It is instead using a variety of signals at each step to create new signals (so its not quite like the telephone game). Both at the steps and in the interactions of the steps there are homeostatic features, which tend to keep things reasonably constant even if burps occur. And there are regularities which emerge from having lots of noisy elements interact with each other. And .... ? PG