03 June 2015

It’s always struck me as interesting that we know so little about the way our minds work and we also know so little about the way our immune systems work. These two systems are fascinating examples of intelligence. Simply put the mind is a centralised intelligence and the immune system is a distributed intelligence. By that I mean the mind does a lot of processing from relatively few sensors, where as the immune system has many autonomous distributed sensors which each do a little processing, and some centralised areas of control. Both systems have memory and a recognition ability.

However, things get really interesting at the interface of these two highly complex systems. The placebo affect is, perhaps, even less understood than either of the individual systems. There also may be links between auto-immune disease and mental disease and a low mental state is also associated with greater susceptibility to disease.

I’m not expert in these areas, but now something rather extraordinary seems to have emerged: a physical (i.e. anatomical) connection between these systems. I don’t know what the specific implications of this paper are, but to quote Ryan Adams, it “tickles the mind” (in more ways than one).

It is sometimes hard to imagine what people thought in geology before plate tectonics was understood. Of course, this is a totally premature statement, but a discovery like this really feels like it could bring about a corresponding seismic shift in health and the mind.

Link: This is the original article I saw (shared on Facebook by Jennifer Listgarten and Simon Osindero) on the Nature paper.



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