Calcium ions and consciousness

Biomolecular information, brain activity and cognitive functions

Alfredo Pereira Jr & Fabio Furlan, Sao Paolo State University and University of Marilia

ARBS Annual Review of Biomedical Sciences, 23 November 2007

Summary and review of the above paper

Proteins in the open system of the living cell reduce entropy locally at the cost of increasing it in the surrounding environment. Living systems are thus kept in a low entropy state without violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and this allows physiochemical activity that drives living processes. Energy from glucose sustains the low entropy of cells. Phosphorylation of proteins sustains them in an active state, and the energy is obtained from blood glucose controlled by protein kinases.

The kinases are enzymes that control the activity of proteins. Proteins are chains of amino acids that fold into three-dimensional conformations that in turn select molecular structures. A large class of biomolecular interactions involve electrostatic attractions. Positively and negatively charged sites on a protein convey information. This is an ordered physical structure that interacts with other physical structures to produce various phenomena.

Cellular electromagnetic oscillations are accompanied by vibratory activity, here referred to as electro-magnetic-vibratory. Such membrane channel vibrations are described as phonons, these being the quantum of energy found in molecular, ionic and thermal motions. These motions would occur during action potentials. The movement of ions across the neuronal membrane generates both electromagnetic activity and related vibratory patterns.

2026_Action_Potential_Heart_ContractionThe flux of sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-) and calcium (Ca2+) ions in the brain is controlled by proteins in the neural membrane. The first three of these ions are involved in propagating the axon spike. The calcium ion is seen as an informational vehicle, with two outer electrons that can bind to negatively charged molecules. The authors consider that calcium ions may be involved in the generation of consciousness. Calcium ions allows the opening of vesicles in the synapses in order to release neurotransmitters.

In addition, intracellular calcium (iCa2+) functions as a second messenger to activate intracellular processes. Some of the results of this processing feedback on the membrane and the various ion channels. It is considered possible that the membrane channel transfers a vibratory pattern to the calcium ion, and further to that the feedback from the intracellular processing of calcium ions could tune the membrane pattern to the signal pattern of neuronal assemblies.


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