A study from researchers at the University of Michigan suggests that the human brain might actually be an organ of some sort.
According to the research, the human body consists of trillions of neurons and billions of neurons connected by a network of thousands of nerve cells.
Researchers have hypothesized that the network of neurons is connected to each other via a membrane called the glial membrane.
Researchers found that when these cells are in a diseased state, their connections to each others’ glial cells weaken, allowing the glia to grow.
It was this weakening that allowed brain cells to get out of control and cause brain tumors and other brain disorders.
“The glial cell network is a highly flexible network, which is why it can become unstable and start to misfire,” lead researcher Jonathan Zolna wrote in the paper published in the journal Cell.
“It is also important to note that the glio-molecular network is not just a ‘factory’ for the growth of cells, but also functions as a bridge between the different layers of cells in the body.”
It turns out that glial neurons have the ability to trigger the release of various chemicals that activate other brain cells.
For example, they can produce neurosteroids and serotonin.
When a glial neuron receives neurosteroid, it can cause other neurons to become more active, and the more active the neurons are, the more they stimulate other neurons.
This is what makes glial network activity more active than the network activity of neurons from other cells in a tissue.
In other words, when a glia cell is activated, other cells within the brain can also get a taste of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, which can then activate other cells that will then stimulate more neurons.
The brain also has a network that regulates how many glia cells it can have at a time, and it has a function called glial astrocyte homeostasis that controls how much astro-cytes are released into the surrounding blood.
If these glia-dependent factors are not functioning correctly, then brain tumors can start to form, and eventually lead to death.
This study, Zolva and colleagues say, “provides evidence that the brain is capable of regulating its own functioning through its own astrocerebral structure.”
The study also found that the astrocephalic neurons in the brain function as a kind of brain cell shield, and can prevent other neurons from growing.
It is possible that glia also control how much neurosterones are released in the blood, and that these neurosterone release pathways can also be regulated by glia.
It seems that gliosis is not a perfect analogy for brain function, though.
In the future, Zelna says, it will be possible to use these findings to understand how brain functions differ between people with and without neurodegenerative diseases.
This article originally appeared on Ars Technicom.