MOTHER’S DAY GLIAL CELL: This glial cell (green) wraps its ample dendritic arms around a neuron (red).

MOTHER’S DAY GLIAL CELL: This glial cell (green) wraps its ample dendritic arms around a neuron (red).

• Although glia, named after the Greek for glue, don’t receive as much attention in the press, they nourish, support and protect our neurons.

• The amount of brain tissue that is made up of glial cells increases with brain size: the nematode brain contains only a few glia; a fruit fly’s brain is 25% glia; that of a mouse, 65%; a human, 90%; and an elephant, 97%.


#happymothersday #sciencesunday #glia

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37 Responses to MOTHER’S DAY GLIAL CELL: This glial cell (green) wraps its ample dendritic arms around a neuron (red).

  1. Nice science and great tie in 🙂

    Thinking of glia cells as mothering cells is an interesting perspective.

  2. Rajini Rao says:

    I’ve been saving this image for Mother’s Day, Feisal Kamil . Glia have always embodied mothering to me, Jeff Jockisch .

  3. DaFreak says:

    So 90% of my brain is made out of something I never even knew existed… Damn you neurons! You guys are totally getting pampered but still you fail to keep me informed. 😉

  4. Rajini Rao says:

    Koen De Paus , don’t blame the glia! 🙂 Here is more from an older post.

  5. DaFreak says:

    I should really invest some time in curating my circles, can’t believe I missed that one! I am following way too many people but they are all posting so much interesting stuff… Good read though, thx for the link!

  6. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m happy to remind you of anything you may have missed, Koen De Paus 😉

  7. happy mothers day Rajini- I always look forward to your posts.

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, JoEllen Donahue Hermes ! For the wishes and your nice words 🙂 Cheers to you too!

  9. Rajini Rao Always beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. I often think, that these graphics, if I look for artistic value, are often superior to what I see in many galleries.

  10. Rajini Rao says:

    I agree, there is certainly beauty in biology and nature, Gerd Moe-Behrens . One only has to look.

  11. Rajini Rao Agree. Moreover, there are also interesting conceptual questions about the intersection about art and science. I wrote a while ago this blog:

    “A few words about the intersection between art/design and science/synthetic biology

    The question about how art and science interact, and if art is an integrated part of scientific work, or should be banned from science, leads us back to discussions of the ancient Greek philosophers and their precursors. The fundamental question was: What is reality? Can we understand the world around us with the help of our senses, or is the world around us a product of our mental concepts? The answers to these questions never were straightforward, and have been heavily discussed during the last 2000 years. During the different periods of history, sometimes it was en vogue to believe that reality is defined by our senses (materialism) other times people preferred to believe that reality is mental (idealism).

    The concept of idealism was profoundly formulated for the first time by Plato (428/7 – 348/7 BC). Later it was enlivened by different Neo-Platonic movements. E.g. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 –1519), a follower of Neo-Platonism, did not make a clear distinction between art and science. If the reality of the world basically is a mental product, all mental products including art, play an as equally important role.

    Idealistic scientific thinking fell out of favor by the end of the nineteenth century. The main paradigm was now materialism. Idealistic thinking was highly criticized as unscientific. The external world and its observation by experiments became the main subject of science. Reflection about how our brain is structuring the world, and its meaning for scientific discovery were excluded from scientific methodology. Materialistic, scientific approach survived as a leading paradigm until today. Such materialistic orientated science banned art and artistic thinking from science. Art was viewed as a separate area, which could not give valuable contributions to scientific discovery.

    However, a number of twentieth century scientists are known to have concerned themselves with Neo-Platonic, artistic thinking, such as earlier described in e.g. Goethes (1749 – 1832) theory of color, a theory focused on the mental reception of color. Among these modern scientists are the logician and mathematician Kurt Goedel (1906 – 1978), the theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976) the mathematical physicist and pioneer of chaos theory Mitchell Feigenbaum (born 1944), to mention a few. Feigenbaum has even said, “Goethe was right about color”! All the above-mentioned use mathematics as their scientific tool. Only mathematics and mathematical logic survived as a respectable science as the paradigm changed to materialism at the turn of the nineteenth century. Mathematics is a product of our brain and thus conceptually idealistic. On first sight a modern eye will often judge idealistic concepts as quite fantastic, naive, strange and far away from all reality. A modern scientist would use exactly these descriptions hearing what Plato claims in his Timaeus; the world is built out of triangles. However, this becomes less suspicious, if one stops to focus on the triangles and starts to reflect over the basic idea behind this concept. In modern theoretical physics we can find such thinking. In quantum theory, as an example, a mathematical model is used to describe the material world of atoms. The Schrödinger equation plays a central role in this theory. The sine function stands central in the solution of this equation. The sine is a function of an angle in the right triangle. So even with his triangles Plato might not have been so wrong and naive as it initially may look.

    Neo-Platonic thinking in science again became acceptable during the last decades. E.g. Norbert Wiener (1894 – 1964, an American mathematician) reintroduced the concept self-organization in 1965 in the second edition of his “Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine” During the years following this publication, the concept of self-organization became popular among scientist working in the field of complex systems. The work of Wiener was influential for the development and understanding of scientific concepts about complex systems. These concepts play an important role in modern scientific movements such as systems biology and synthetic biology.

    Conceptual thinking plays an important role in the contemporary design and art movements. A new intersection between science and art is taking place, since scientific thinking is re-opened for such idealistic concepts. In the following years it will be interesting to see how design and art will influence the development of the field of synthetic biology and vice versa.

    The Leukippos Institute is open minded in this respect and artists, designers, architects and people working in related field are welcome to collaborate with us.”

    Reference and further reading:

    Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, PhD, Gerd Moe-Behrens, PhD, SELF-ORGANIZING FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL, The Discovery of a New Formative Force, ISBN 978-82-8272-004-5, Amazon Kindle Edition,

    and a talk touching this subject:

  12. Rajini Rao says:

    Fantastic commentary, Gerd Moe-Behrens . I’m with da Vinci on the overlap between art and science. Synthetic biology is a modern take on this overlap.

  13. Rajini Rao Thanks. Agree with you on this.

  14. Amr Malik says:

    Proof that Elephants are smarter than Humans?

  15. Keith Old says:

    If you were my science teacher at school I would still be in school. Your stuff is always interesting. THANK YOU and please keep putting up stuff like this.

  16. Rajini Rao says:

    Mark Bruce , your comment reminded me that the innermost meninges of the brain is called pia mater or tender mother!

  17. Azad IS says:

    Nice one Rajini mam… the nervous connection- its often said…. for the nerve true it is….though a mistake…!!!!

  18. Rajini Rao says:

    Prabat Parmal , one type of glial cell-the Schwann cell, does indeed wrap around the nerve fibers to provide electrical insulation. This is known as myelination and it makes a huge difference to the speed of neural conduction in vertebrates that have it.

  19. Rajini Rao says:

    Hi Kevin Clift , I took a quick look. The paper shows that the type of glial cell that forms the electrical insulation around nerve axons uses glucose as a primary source of energy (i.e., does not need mitochondria), and that it shares this feature with the very axon that it wraps around.

  20. Rajini Rao says:

    Kevin Clift , here is a brief summary of the paper you linked to: Basically, the cartoon shows movement of glucose from the glia to neuron.

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Feisal Kamil , I checked to see if the Gila Monster had anything to do with Malaysia, but unfortunately not. Imagine a venomous mad lizard.

  22. Thank you kindly for imparting your knowledge upon us:)

  23. Kevin Clift says:

    People in this thread may find picture 3 and others of interest: via Felix Woitzel .

  24. Kevin Clift says:

    Thanks, I missed that one.

  25. Ravi Teja says:

    So, Neurons are better looked after, in an Elephant.

    Does this mean, they are smarter than us humans?

    At the very least, It looks like they are taking better care of their most important fundamental building blocks.

  26. Rajini Rao says:

    Elephants are quite smart, as animals go! They need more glia to support their larger brain mass 🙂

  27. Ravi Teja says:

    Please don’t provide them the glia. I hope no research is currently being done on this subject w.r.t Elephants.

    Elephants are scary when they gain cognition or totally lose it. Either way, It will not be a cute story.

  28. Rajini Rao says:

    I think people are scarier than elephants.

  29. Ravi Teja says:

    I’ll guess, It’ll be the other way round Rajini, with 100 percent nourishment for the Neurons, and the equation now also consists of, a few decades of random developments to their off-springs’ Neurons.

    I’m still of the opinion, that It won’t be cute.

    Except when a little Elephant opens It’s owns Facebook page, and starts paying/earning Money from posting there.

    That might be kinda cute.

  30. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s already been done, Ravi Teja . It’s called Farmville.

  31. Ravi Teja says:

    That makes sense.

  32. Ravi Teja says:

    But, you are basically being magnanimous towards the general facebook populace.

    I’d say, a good, solid percentage of them have ‘hurr durr herp derp’ in their regular vocabulary

  33. Ravi Teja says:

    Just, went through the entire thread.

    I think Moms are awesome.

    I have no idea why my Mom likes me so much. She might be crazy.

    Yup, that explains why ‘I’m’ crazy as well. As long as we’re both crazy, anything else is pretty much irrelevant/non-pertinent.

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