"...Most fire ant bait is an insecticide and an attractive fire ant food (generally processed corn grits coated with soybean oil) combination. Baits are taken into the colony by ants searching for food. The bait is distributed to other members of the colony through the exchange of food known as trophallaxis. One key to the efficiency of baits is that the insecticide gets to the queen. Although several fire ant baits are available, there are two main types: insect growth regulators and actual toxins. Hydramethylnon bait is a toxin (slow acting stomach poison) that disrupts the ant's ability to convert food to energy. Spinosad bait is a slow acting biorational toxin derived through the fermentation of a soil dwelling bacteria.... Fenoxycarb, Precor or methoprene, and pyriproxyfen are all insect growth regulators that prevent queens from producing new workers..." - linkFascinating stuff indeed, but what's this got to do with brains?
The ant colony has a lot in common with the human brain. From the simple, rule lead interactions of the ant with its environment; ants with other ants; ants with food sources, an incredibly well organised and highly complicated pattern of behaviour can emerge. Science dudes call this an emergent property, basically the complex arising from the simple. Here are just some of the complex things ant colonies can do:
Colonies build intricate nests which when damaged are communally repaired Ant colonies appear to learn from past events and react differently in the future Older ant colonies seem more 'wise' than younger colonies Ants can form into distinct 'highways', pushing nourishment and materials back and forth efficiently Some ants are known to farm 'livestock' and grow 'crops' within their nests - otherwise known as symbiosis
...and much more.
There is no central control issuing orders over the colony (the Queen is in fact the dumbest member of the nest) and yet incredible behaviour, and even some aspects of conscious awareness emerge. If some of the scientific data linked above is anything to go by then some colonies can understand, can learn, can possibly even grow and mature as a single entity or neural network, sound far fetched?
"Incredibly complex systems turn out to be governed by few and very easily comprehensible rules, where the complexity is totally invisible until the system is examined as a whole.Taken in this way the human brain is nothing but an elaborate neural colony, each neuron an ant, each pathway a trail of scent, each portion of the brain a different sub-system of the colony at large. Let's hope that ants don't expand on that 10 signs of language, or we are in deep kakka!
Compared to the human brain, the neural network of an ant is extremely small. Ants have 10,000 - 100,000 neurons depending on the species. Yet these small neural lumps, communicating using very simple methods result in this complex phenomenon that is the living, learning, growing ant colony.
...A big ant colony may have all in all 500 billion neurons (5 million ants with 100,000 neurons each). This is about 5 times as much as a human brain (which has about 100 billion neurons), but the neurons in the ant colony are all but isolated in the individual lumps of up to 100,000 neurons that are the individual ants. Studies of E. O. Wilson in the sixties showed another ant species, so-called fire ants, to have about 10 signs in their "language". So while this interaction is what allows for the emergent behavior of the colony, the limitations in the interactions is what keeps it from showing even more complex behavior.
The human brain on the other hand is highly interconnected. Neurons in the brain are cross linked and interconnected within the whole system. An average neuron is linked to a dozen others, some to thousands. The neural connections are over the neuron's so-called synapses, to other cell's receptors or so-called dendrites. It is estimated that there are 1 quadrillion synapses in a human brain. That's 1015 or 1,000,000,000,000,000." - link + another
So where do the ant pellets come in?
Disguised as nourishment the pellets are dragged nest-wards by the ant, (the neuron) and inserted into the colony (configuration of the brain). Is this not a good metaphor for drug taking?
Some hallucinogenics (LSD) mimic the chemical structure of serotonin, fooling the brain into operating in various alternative configurations. LSD is distributed throughout the brain, simply because of its similarity in chemical structure to serotonin. Other drugs (MDMA) effectively 'uninhibit' the supply of serotonin to the brain, giving users the characteristic high associated with the drug:
"As with all neurotransmitters, the actual effects of serotonin (5-HT) on the human mood and state of mind are very difficult to ascertain. One way of understanding it is through the use of MDMA, which is thought to cause a mass release of 5-HT, possibly by drawing it back through the transporter....
5-HT receptors are also used by other psychoactive drugs, including LSD, DMT, and Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychodedelic mushrooms." - link
...and taking the metaphor further some poisons and pharmaceuticals act on neurons individually, shutting them down and/or blocking their effects on the brain/neural network/colony.
Anyway, just an idea. Can anyone else think of similarities? What do you know about drugs and how they intimately effect the workings of the brain? of consciousness itself? Are you against the idea of brains as highly advanced ant colonies?
Comments highly appreciated, as always.