In the case of species evidencing magnetoreception, there is the possibility that cryptochrome (with its connection to both a navigation strategy, and circadian rhythms) may be supporting in an integrated sense of time and place through a system that combined together a clock and compass. Evidence of such a system has been indicated in various species and this is explored further in this posting.
Vertebrates have multiple compass systems (sun, star, polarized light and magnetic compasses.) Factors that determine which of these compass systems is used at any given time include weather conditions, time of day, and past experience. Each of these compass systems requires different sensory detection/processing mechanisms, e.g., a time compensation mechanism for the sun compass and specialized sensory receptors capable of detecting the plane of polarized light and alignment of the geomagnetic field for the polarized light and magnetic compasses . Each compass system also incorporates to varying degrees both innate and learned components . To avoid systematic errors in the direction of orientation when switching between compasses, each of these systems must be calibrated with respect to a common reference system. In birds, where the integration of compass information is best understood, the primary compass calibration reference appears to be derived from celestial cues, probably polarized patterns present at sunset and, possibly, also sunrise. Accurate navigation only requires that the map and compass are in register with one another, i.e., that the animal navigator is able to associate a geographic position specified by the map with a compass bearing that will enable it to return to the origin of a displacement or to some other predetermined destination. J B Philips 2006.
There is recent evidence that circadian and circatidal clocks control the mechanisms of semilunar foraging behaviour. J M Cheeseman 2017
Beyond a combined clock and compass, it may be interesting to consider that memories are not only of places, but of places linked to time. An integrated navigation system will also need to draw on previous (or predicted) experience. Therefore focusing on place based memory (as much of the research on place and grid cells has done), without integrating it with time, is likely to provide a limited understanding. A combined clock and compass system might support a memory that can integrate space-time information.
“Time is the only physical variable that is ‘inherited’ by the brain from the external world…Thus, memories must be ‘made of time,’ or, more precisely, of temporal relationships between external stimuli…In effect, the entire biological utility of memory relies on the existence of many dimensions of homeostasis, some shorter-term and some longer-term. The many timescales of memory represent many timescales of past experience and must be simultaneously available to the organism to be useful.” N V Kukushkin 2017. There are a number of timings/periodic oscillations taking place in the biology, but circadian rhythms play a key role in coordinating these across the piece – ensuring that they take place in sequence and support optimum efficiency in the organism. Read More…
What is a swarm?
When we think of a swarm, we usually think of swarms of insects, but the term swarm can be applied to different species (e.g herds, flocks, schools, societies (e.g I Couzin. ), and even different scales (e.g gluons, quarks, electrons, particles, cells, organisms, stars, etc).
These ideas are already being explored by a number of scientists, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence where swarm behaviours are used to explore collective behaviour/self organisation. Read More…
An Emergent Universe
New states can arise from far from equilibrium, possessing an extraordinary degree of order, whereby trillions of molecules coordinate their actions in space and time. Prigogine coined the term “dissipative structures” to describe them, since they result from the exchange of matter and energy between system and environment, together with the production of entropy (dissipation) by the system.
The complex and mutually dependent processes leading to the formation of structures, collectively called “self organisation”…in such a universe, irreversible non-equilibrium thermodynamics allows for the possibility of self organisation leading to structures ranging from planets and galaxies to cells and organisations. R Highfield and P Coveney 2015.
According to Masser (2006), it would be appropriate to represent the Big Bang not as a single event, but as an on-going process of gradual formation out of chaos. In other words the evolution of the universe is a continuous self-organisation process that has led to its currently observed structure with a host of galaxies, galaxy clusters and planetary systems.
One indication of such emergence could be seen through patterns known to be generated by self organisation. Read More…
Quantum Coherence in Biology.
There is direct evidence for the presence of quantum coherence over appreciable length scales and timescales in the FMO pigment protein complex of the green sulphur bacteria.
It has also been theorised that magnetoreception (triggered by cryptocrhome or magnetite) is utilising quantum mechanical effects. N Lambert – 2012.
The question has remained, how are such quantum effects generated?
One possibility is that the solid state photo-CIDNP effect, singlet and triplet states, ultra-fast electron transfer, and quantum coherence found in photosynthesis (and theorised in magnetorception). During charge separation in biology, triplet states can react with molecular oxygen generating destructive singlet oxygen. The triplet product yield in bacteria and plants is observed to be reduced by weak magnetic fields. This effect is due to ‘solid-state photochemically induced dynamic nuclear polarization (photo-CIDNP), which is an efficient method of creating non-equilibrium polarization of nuclear spins by using chemical reactions, which have radical pairs as intermediates. A Marais – 2016
This process bares a strong resemblance to spintronic semiconductors. And Certain organic semiconductors (OLEDs) exhibit magnetoelectroluminescence or magnetoconductance, the mechanism of which shares essentially identical physics with radical pairs in biology – specifically singlet and triplet states generated during magnetoreception. PJ Hore (2016).
Biological materials implicated in quantum biology are similar in structure to organic semiconductors. Organic molecules that serve as chromophores (of which flavins such as cryptochrome, are examples) consist of extended conjugated π-systems (the same structure as organic semiconductors) – which allow electronic excitation by sunlight and provide photochemical reactivity. …..Ultrafast electron transfer mechanisms from an aromatic moiety to a photoexcited flavin are not only observed for riboflavin-binding proteins but for other flavoproteins, like for BLUF (blue light sensing using FAD) domains, cryptochromes, and DNA photolyases. H Staudt 2011. And in biology, evidence has been found that the existence of central aromatic acids can serve as stepping stones to support an electron hopping mechanism W Sun 2016. J R Winkler 2015
This has implications for consciousness. For “if nuclear spin resonance is found to have an impact on the spin-dependent electron transport due to the hyperfine interaction, ultimately the opposite process may become possible: storing electronic spin information in the nuclear spin.” J Matysik (2017). It is already known that cryptochrome plays a role in animal memory. CK Mulder 2016 , A Malik 2015.
More information on possible biological spintronic semiconductors is available on this site – click here to find out more.
Is there evidence of similar effects in human beings?
J Kirschvink (Caltech) claims to have found evidence of magnetoreception in human beings (June 2016). A V Chervakov 2015 has recently explored possible mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation, and suggested magnetoreception may be implicated.
Evidence of reduced triplet product yield in brain tissue following exposure to magnetic fields would be required to demonstrate that the solid state photo CIDNP state effect was present in the brain.
A number of papers have proposed that oxidative stress could be caused by electro-magnetic fields e.g ELF-EMFs exposure (50 Hz, 0.1–1.0 mT) was shown to significantly affect antioxidant enzymatic capacity in both young and aged rat brains (S Falcone 2008). However other studies suggest that magnetic fields could decrease oxidative stress and damage in rats and gerbils. H Kabuto et al 2001 ,S R Balind 2014, I Tunez 2006, I Tasset 2010, 2013. Such studies show that the level and timing of exposure are critical factors impacting outcome measures. M Reale 2014.