Dwayne Godwin’s laboratory is now describing the neurological process of waking. Like so much else in science, it’s easier for reporters to explain it with metaphors:
As we yawn and open our eyes in the morning, the brain stem sends little puffs of nitric oxide to another part of the brain, the thalamus, which then directs it elsewhere.
Like a computer booting up its operating system before running more complicated programs, the nitric oxide triggers certain functions that set the stage for more complex brain operations, according to a new study.
But sometimes, one metaphor isn’t enough:
Godwin says the new research shows it’s more accurate to think of the thalamus not as a gate but as a club bouncer, who doesn’t simply allow a huge rush of people to go in or no one at all, but picks and chooses whom to let in and out.
This analogy is particularly apt, since bouncers make a lot of their decisions without the aid of a cortex, often just using the thalamus and amygdala. And some clubs feature nitrous oxide… and computers… so maybe that fits in somehow, too.
More from Dwayne Godwin… and his Neuroscience abstract…