Mushrooms, electricity, the internet and neural networks! These things may seem unrelated, but are they really?! Lets find out!
This is a photo of mushroom mycelium. Mycelium is the underground root like structure of mushrooms.
You may notice how it looks similar to lightning and I’d like to talk about how that may not be just a coincidence.
In biology, form and function are connected.
The way something is shaped can be a clue to what its function is. Mycelium looks like lightning and they also use electrical signals to grow and communicate in a similar way to our brain’s neural networks.
Fungi also happen to be good for brain health. Mycelium, neural networks, and electricity all look similar and have similar functions that are connected.
First, let’s talk about how mycelium uses electrical signals to grow and communicate.
In this book Published in 2016, author and mycologist Peter McCoy, talks about how electrical influences seem to be important to the process of fungal growth. This is one of the most important books on the subject of mycology and Peter McCoy has been studying mushrooms for over 15 years.
In one part of this book, he talks about how fungi are electrical organisms that produce their own electrical currents.
"From all that I have read on the subject of fungal growth, electrical influences do seem to be central to the process. Like all living beings, the fungi are electrical organisms that produce their own AC and DC currents that can be altered by external signals. Many fungi species are even attracted to electrical fields, an effect known as galvanotropism. Candida albicans will orient toward the cathodes of an electrical field, and many mycelium-forming fungi will orient their spore germination point of hyphal branching in relationship to electrical currents. Growing hyphal tips produce a -200 mV inward current, which may be due in part to the strong concentration of positively charged calcium ions located at the apex." (McCoy 17)
The Electric Fungus (1995):
The Electric Fungus (1995):
"Fungal cells generate D.C. and A.C. (action potentials) electrical currents during theirgrowth and differentiation. In addition, they exhibit tropic growth (galvanotropism) and tactic responses (galvanotaxis) in applied electrical fields. The natural D.C. electrical currents of fungi are due to clustering of ion channels and pumps in certain regions of the cells, mycelium or thallus. It now seems that these electrical currents per se are not essential for the process of tip growth although the local traffic of calcium ions, which are a component of the currents, may be. Instead, electrical currents and action potentials are concerned apparently with spatial control of nutrient uptake and perhaps in intramycelium communication. Studies of the phenomenon of galvanotropism have been used to explore further the mechanisms underlying apical extension of hyphae and these also implicate localcalcium ion uptake as being important for this process. Motile zoospores of phytopathogenic fungi exhibit galvanotaxis in weak electrical fields of a size comparable to those generated by plant roots. This tactic behaviour predicts the sites of their accumulation in the natural electrical fields generated by roots and suggests that they may utilize the endogenous electrical currents of plants to detect potential hosts. Generating and responding to electrical currents is therefore an important and general aspect of fungal physiology."
This electrical current will actually travel throughout the mycelium which allows the fungi to send information across long distances kind of like the internet does....
Mycelium and the internet? This leads me to..
Paul Stamets is thee mycologist that every mushroom lover should know. He has been a dedicated mycologist for over 40 years and in a 2008 Ted Talk he called mushroom mycelium the "Earth's natural internet”.
He made the connection between the internet and fungi because mycelium in the soil can connect different plants allowing them to share nutrients and communicate about their surroundings just like we do with the internet.
In his book: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World published in 2005 Stamets says:
”I believe that mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.”
....Did humans invent the internet or did we unknowingly discover it from Nature’s design?
Stamets believes that mycelium is the neurological network of nature and this leads me to....
Neurons look like mycelium and electricity and they also have similar functions.
Neural connections in our brain create similar electrical signals that are used to pass on information like the fungi do when its using electrical currents to grow.
"Nerve cells generate electrical signals that transmit information. Although neurons are not intrinsically good conductors of electricity, they have evolved elaborate mechanisms for generating electrical signals based on the flow of ions across their plasma membranes. Ordinarily, neurons generate a negative potential, called the resting membrane potential, that can be measured by recording the voltage between the inside and outside of nerve cells. The action potential abolishes the negative resting potential and makes the transmembrane potential transiently positive. Action potentials are propagated along the length of axons and are the fundamental signal that carries information from one place to another in the nervous system. Generation of both the resting potential and the action potential can be understood in terms of the nerve cell's selective permeability to different ions, and of the normal distribution of these ions across the cell membrane."
Lions Mane mushroom is a great tasting edible mushroom that research is showing great potential for brain health.
"Neurotrophic factors are important in promoting the growth and differentiation of neurons. Nerve growth factor (NGF) is essential for the maintenance of the basal forebrain cholinergic system. Hericenones and erinacines isolated from the medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Lions Mane) can induce NGF synthesis in nerve cells."
“The subjects of the Yamabushitake group took four 250 mg tablets containing 96 percent of Yamabushitake dry powder three times a day for 16 weeks. After termination of the intake, the subjects were observed for the next four weeks. At weeks eight, 12 and 16 of the trial, the Yamabushitake group showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. The Yamabushitake group’s scores increased with the duration of intake, but at week four after the termination of the 16 weeks intake, the scores decreased significantly.” (Mori, 2009)
This is a photo of Lion's Mane mushroom....
Which looks like the cerebellum in our brain....
Which looks like mycelium which looks like electricity....
Magic mushrooms and New Neural Networks:
So-called “magic mushrooms” are being studied for their potential to create new neural networks in the brain which might be why they are helpful for people suffering from PTSD.
"Drugs that modulate serotonin (5-HT) synaptic concentrations impact neurogenesis and hippocampal (HPC)-dependent learning. The primary objective is to determine the extent to which psilocybin (PSOP) modulates neurogenesis and thereby affects acquisition and extinction of HPC-dependent trace fear conditioning."
Mycelium, neural networks, and electricity all look similar and they all have similar functions. This leads me to.....
Lightning increases mushroom yields!
"A four-year study carried out at Iwate University in northern Japan on ten species of mushroom (so far) has shown that for eight of the 10 mushroom species a bolt of lightning-strength electricity could double the crop yield. The best improvements were found in the popular nameko and shiitake mushrooms. The experiments were carried out by seeding logs with mushroom spores and then applying high-voltage electricity pulses to the logs.
A direct hit by natural lightning would burn and kill mushrooms with up to a billion volts of electricity, so the researchers, led by Associate Professor of Engineering, Koichi Takaki, thought the increase in numbers of mushrooms, if it occurred at all, could be caused by exposure to a weakened charge that would travel through the soil after a nearby lightning strike. They therefore used less damaging pulses of electricity.
The experiments showed mushrooms react best when exposed to a ten-millionth of a second burst of electricity at 50-100,000 volts. Under the best conditions the nameko yield was 80% greater than the untreated control crop, while the shiitake crop yield doubled. Takaki said the mushrooms initially decrease the enzyme and protein secretions from the hyphae (tiny filaments that spread under the surface, acting like roots and giving rise to the fruiting bodies such as mushrooms), but then suddenly increase production."
So now we know that neural networks and fungi growth/communication uses electrical signals in similar ways but did you know that mushrooms themselves could be used as batteries in the future?
"Current state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries must be improved in both energy density and power output in order to meet the future energy storage demand in electric vehicles and grid energy-storage technologies," said Vilas Pol, an associate professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and the School of Materials Engineering. "So there is a dire need to develop new anode materials with superior performance."
"He noticed a mushroom growing on a rotting wood stump in his backyard and decided to study its potential as a source for carbon fibers.
"I was curious about the structure so I cut it open and found that it has very interesting properties," he said. "It's very rubbery and yet very tough at the same time. Most interestingly, when I cut it open it has a very fibrous network structure."
Comparisons with other fungi showed the Tyromyces fissilis was especially abundant in fibers. The fibers are processed under high temperatures in a chamber containing argon gas using a procedure called pyrolysis, yielding pure carbon in the original shape of the fungus fibers.
The fibers have a disordered arrangement and intertwine like spaghetti noodles.
"They form a conductive interconnected network," Pol said.
The interconnected network brings faster electron transport, which could result in faster battery charging."
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2016-04-cook-battery-anodes-wild-mushrooms.html#jCp
Mushroom mycelium looks like neural connections and mushrooms are good for your brain.
Mycelium, neurons, both look the same and both use electrical signals to share information.
And on top of all that we now have Mushrooms used as batteries?! This brings me to my last but not least...
The Tesla Tower!
The Tesla tower, designed by Nikola Tesla in 1901 was a tower built to transmit electricity through the air to send information over long distances without wires.
How it works
"The power source is hooked up to the primary coil. The primary coil's capacitor acts like a sponge and soaks up the charge. The primary coil itself must be able to withstand the massive charge and huge surges of current, so the coil is usually made out of copper, a good conductor of electricity. Eventually, the capacitor builds up so much charge that it breaks down the air resistance in the spark gap. Then, similar to squeezing out a soaked sponge, the current flows out of the capacitor down the primary coil and creates a magnetic field."
Is it a coincidence that this tower is mushroom shaped?!
I think not! Form and function, people! Form and function!!
At this point you are probably looking at me like I’m this guy....
But its like Aristotle said, ”It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.
I ask you just to entertain the connection between mushroom, neurons, electricity, and the internet.
Perhaps it is just a coincidence and its this way just because it is but you have to admit you learned some cool things like:
how mushroom yields increase with electricity
how mushrooms can be used as batteries
how mycelium shares and connects information just like the internet does
how electrical signals help fungi grow
how mushrooms are good for brain health
and how all these things are shaped in the same way and work in the same way.
Perhaps its just a coincidence but I like to entertain the thought that perhaps these connections are nature’s way of communicating with us. Perhaps the form of something is natures way of telling us how it can be used.