A fairly common way to explain computer components to someone unfamiliar with them is to liken the CPU to the brain, the nervous system as the motherboard, and so on. Well it turns out the analogy goes both directions as researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that astrocytes form a network similar to a motherboard. This revelation could have great effect on neurological research.
The usual way connections within the brain are described are as point-to-point connections between neurons, like a peer-to-peer connection. What the researchers have discovered is that the astrocytes, which encase neurons and create borders within the brain, are also able to transmit signals. These signals typically travel slower than the point-to-point connections synapses aid, but the astrocytes are able to carry more information in a signal and can spread it differently throughout the brain. The researchers liken this capability to that of a computer motherboard, connecting the different components.
This research could have numerous impacts on neurology as many diseases are linked to the behavior of the brain's internal networks, including epilepsy and Alzheimer's. Without those diseases though, this is still an important discovery as it should lead neurologists to consider a more holistic view of the brain when considering its communications.
Source: Tel Aviv University