• Question: if there is enough energy in our 100 billion neurons then surely we could extract a small amount to use as perhaps an alternate power source becuase i doubt we use all of them do we?

    Asked by crazy to Tim, Suzi, Simon, Rachael, Damien on 16 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by tya1, annabelbutcher, nadiafrenchx.
    • Photo: Tim Fosker

      Tim Fosker answered on 10 Jun 2011:

      Hi Crazy,

      Energy is not really made by the brain but transformed from one state into another. All the cells (including neurons) in our bodies use sugar (glucose) for energy. In the case of neurons this glucose is converted into electrical energy that is passed between neurons. So to use the brain to create lots of electricity we would need lots of sugar.

      The research that I do uses a technique for measuring that electrical activity produced by very large numbers of neurons over the surface of the head. To do this you actually need to use an amplifier because the electricity produced over the surface of the head is very small. In the same way a karaoke machine with a microphone increases the volume of your voice, the amplifier increases the electricity over the scalp to a level which is recordable.

      Over all, I don’t think we will be powering our televisions with neuron power any time soon! Although pedal power may be an option πŸ™‚

    • Photo: Suzi Gage

      Suzi Gage answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      Hi @craxy and @tya1

      I don’t really know the answer to this, but I reckon Tim’s explained it really well, and has educated me too. πŸ™‚

    • Photo: Rachael Ward

      Rachael Ward answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      Hi crazy and tya1,

      I love the question – great thinking there!
      Unfortunately, as Tim has explained, its not really possible to harness the electricity in our neurons for powering other things. What we can do however, is use our “brain power” to think up other possible alternative energy sources, just as you’ve been doing here. Its a really important thing for our future so its great that youre interested in it and coming up with new ideas.