SCIENCE NOTES by neuro scientist and biologist Sofia Hidalgo
For years the question of whether plants possess nervous system has been debated. However, scientists now know that trees are capable of facilitating communication, retaining memory and even learning through their own special nervous system. It is becoming more evident that trees process and transmit electrical signals, carrying a neurobiology that would prompt them to have a nervous system. To highlight some connections that EMBRACING THE ROOT recognizes with that of the neurobiology of trees lets expand on three main points. All of these are focused on trees and their roots, stress and communication, and fungal relationships.
The first point will state that connection prompts growth . Connection is a collective effort, coming from interconnections with all subsystems of a working entity. However, connections may also refer to those outside an entity. For instance, trees take part in an outreach process defined by mycorrhizal networks. Most recently, trees have been found to not only possess the ability of self-regulation but also proven to take part in the regulation of other trees. Trees that live together help each other. This is because of the intrinsic communication system they have developed. Through the process of isotope tracing, scientists have determined that trees that live together are capable of sending the necessary resources, including nutrients, to other trees in need- via their roots. This intercommunication not only aids the trees in need, but have also been shown to increase resiliency in all trees. Mycorrhizal networks, which are built amongst trees, are the ones facilitating tree resilience. To add into this relationship among trees, a technique called allelopathy explains how trees communicate amongst themselves to warn each other about invasive predators.
For our second point, we will establish that neuron connections and root connections are similar in structure and function. The vehicle of all neuron connections are recognized as dendrites. Dendrites are projections from a nerve cell, derived from the Greek word Dendron for “tree”. From such derivation, we can deduce that roots from a tree and nerves from the nervous system (neurons) are similar in structure and function. Similarly, they both take stimulation, are adaptive in their pathways, possess a memory and have the ability to learn. Because roots and neurons are affected by an environment of stimulation we will discuss stress in our third point.
We have stated that tree development is not static, since roots of a tree develop new pathways to form stronger connections, such as our own human brain. In the case of stimulation, we will pose the example of watering. If a tree is under-watered, the tree will not flourish. Conversely, if a tree is over-watered, it will wilt. We can see a related effect on the human condition. Place a human under an overstimulation of stress, and he/she will suffer becoming unhealthy.
To conclude, it is important to note that in order for a tree and human to be healthy, there must be a symbiotic relationship with microbes such as fungi and bacteria. In trees, the mycelium or fungal threads in fungi help trees acquire vital minerals. The human microbiota also maintains homeostasis in the body. It is always necessary to refer back to the basis of human survival strategies. Human survival strategies go back to single organisms such as fungi, which have the ability to close their outer wall in the presence of harmful substances or non-nutritional values. Trees, their roots, and the communication system they carry all are connected to stimulation and fungal relationships. The human brain has developed to be a communication system that is also connected to our own biological nature but also a nature beyond our own human entity.