No, it’s not a stupid joke. It’s my candidate for the worst press release title of September? “Neurons Found To Be Similar To U.S. Electoral College“:
A tiny neuron is a very complicated structure. Its complex network of dendrites, axons and synapses is constantly dealing with information, deciding whether or not to send a nerve impulse, to drive a certain action.
It turns out that neurons, at one level, operate like another complicated structure — the United States, particularly its system of electing a president, through the Electoral College. (source).
Uh. . . thanks for that bizarre free-association, Northwestern University!
The release goes on to elaborate:
In this model, each dendritic branch of a neuron receives and integrates thousands of electrical inputs, deciding on just one signal to send to the axon. The axon then receives signals from all the dendrites, much like electoral votes coming in from state elections, and a final decision is made. The result could be an output in the form of an impulse, or action potential, or no action at all.
Wow. The Electoral College metaphor has revolutionized my understanding of introductory neuroscience! NOT.
In other news, Every Vesicle Has A Voice! activists are campaigning to eliminate dendrites and axons, so synapses can elect a President directly.