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Biology, The Nervous System and Electromagnetism: How they all work together

Biology, The Nervous System and Electromagnetism: How they all work together

The human body relies on the continuous flow of electromagnetic signals to function. Electric current flow is always accompanied by a magnetic field and vice versa—one cannot exist without the other. Therefore, the proper name for electrical current flow is electromagnetic current flow. For the sake of simplicity and ease of reading, electromagnetic current flow may be referred to as electrical current in parts of this article.

Electromagnetic energy is the foundation upon which chemistry is built—all atoms and ions have either a positive or a negative electric charge. Their charge allows them to bond to the opposite charge and form complex molecules. Amino acids and proteins are large structures of such chemical compounds, and cells are built from these structures. Therefore, biology depends on electromagnetism, and without electricity and magnetism, life cannot be sustained.

All cells in the human body communicate with each other through electrical signals. As the membrane potential (voltage across the lipid layer) varies due to ionic concentrations, the resulting change in the cellular electromagnetic field affects the neighboring cells.

The Nervous System

There is a special group of cells called neurons or nerve cells. These elongated cells can transmit electrical impulses over long distances. This phenomenon is called an action potential. Action potentials are created by rapid exchange between intracellular and extracellular ions (mostly sodium and potassium). All cell membranes, including neurons, have multiple channels or gates that allow the flow of ions into and out of the cell. As humans age, the ionic transport across the cell membrane diminishes, and this affects one’s health.

The nervous system can be likened to a complex electrical network with multitudes of inputs and outputs. Although there are differences between how the nerves transmit electricity versus copper wires used in electrical circuits, the basic premise is the same: a command is initiated from a central location (the brain); it is translated into an electrical signal traveling down the neural pathways (spinal cord and periphery nerves); and it arrives at a destination to perform the desired task (e.g. contract a muscle). Unlike man-made electrical circuits, the human body transmits signals utilizing both chemicals and electricity (and magnetic field). Each neural pathway has several synapses in which electrical current is translated into chemical exchange of neurotransmitters. These special messengers travel across the synaptic cleft and are received by receptor proteins, where they trigger subsequent action potentials. As humans age, neurotransmitters and their corresponding neuroreceptors deteriorate and do not perform as efficiently. The consequences are both internal and external; as organ functions are reduced, visible signs of aging become apparent, etc.

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