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A New Study Finds That the Human Brain and the Universe Look Weirdly Similar

An astrophysicist and a neurosurgeon teamed up to compare two of the most complex systems in nature.
November 20, 2020, 8:38am
human brain universe
Photos courtesy of Bryan Goff via Unsplash (Left), and Robina Weermeijer via Unsplash

The universe is full of surprises and very complex too. This might be true when it comes to the human brain as well. Turns out, the two might have more structural similarities than we’d imagine. 

A recent study analysed the differences and similarities between the two most complex systems in existence on a completely different scale: the cosmos and its galaxies, and the human brain and its neuron cells. 


The findings of the study were published in the journal Frontiers of Physics under the title: “The quantitative comparison between the neuronal network and the cosmic web.” The study was conducted by astrophysicist Franco Vazza of the University of Bologna in Italy, and neurosurgeon Alberto Feletti of the University of Verona, Italy. 

It was found out that while the two are evidently different, the structure of the two is pretty similar. In some instances, the two systems looked more similar to each other than they did to the parts they were composed of. 

The study further proposed that hugely different physical processes can result in very similar complex and systematised structures. 

The human brain functions due to the network of around 70 million neurons that together make it up, whereas the universe is believed to have at least 100 billion galaxies. Both the systems are assembled in a complex web or network, and are spread out and connected via filaments and nodes. When the images of both are compared, some resemblance can be seen. 

In every system, the threads composed of nearly 30 percent of the mass. The rest 70 percent of the mass includes parts that seem to be inactive. It includes the brain's water and the dark energy of the universe. 

To get a better understanding on this, the scientists compared the galactic work form with the sections of the brain as they wanted to understand how it was spread in such different networks. 

"We calculated the spectral density of both systems. This is a technique often employed in cosmology for studying the spatial distribution of galaxies," said Vazza in a statement. "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 scientists also focused on the ways of connection of neurons and galaxies and found similarities in them once again. Later, they compared the average number of connections between the nodes and how they cluster.

"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”, said Feletti in a statement. "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.”

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