Bacteria Communicate Like Neurons in the Brain

Biologists Discover Bacteria Communicate Like Neurons in the Brain

Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that bacteria—often viewed as lowly, solitary creatures—are actually quite sophisticated in their social interactions and communicate with one another through similar electrical signaling mechanisms as neurons in the human brain.

In a study published in this week’s advance online publication of Nature, the scientists detail the manner by which bacteria living in communities communicate with one another electrically through proteins called “ion channels.”

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“Just like the neurons in our brain, we found that bacteria use ion channels to communicate with each other through electrical signals,” said Süel. “In this way, the community of bacteria within biofilms appears to function much like a ‘microbial brain’.”
Süel added that the specific mechanism by which the bacteria communicate with one another is surprisingly similar to a process in the human brain known as “cortical spreading depression,” which is thought to be involved in migraines and seizures.