This week for The Bridge, I’ve been working on the text for my collaboration with Richelle. I have written answers to three questions about Purkinje cells and finding Purkinje-like shapes elsewhere in the world. I’m glad to be collaborating in this project because it gives me the opportunity to think more abstractly about my niche area of research and apply it to other things in nature. Each time I look for Purkinje patterns in the world, I find more and more examples. Here’s what I’ve written on this so far:
“What are other examples of the Purkinje pattern in nature?
Purkinje cells exhibit the most complex dendritic branches of all neurons. The dendrites of a Purkinje cell begin with one large branch that splits into two smaller branches, which further divide into medium sized branches, that eventually split into many, tiny, winding dendrites in an almost fractal nature. What is so visually striking about a Purkinje cell is how closely it resembles the shape of a tree. The tree shape above ground begins with a thick trunk that gradually divides into increasingly smaller branches. This tree shape, or Purkinje pattern, is found both microscopically and macroscopically across nature.
In addition to trees and neurons, the Purkinje pattern appears in nature in antlers, coral, blood vessels, river tributaries, and broccoli, just to name a few. Even beyond nature, we have found virtual ways to use the Purkinje pattern in phone-tree networks, outlines with bullet points, and organizational file folders on computers. We use this structure to add clarity and efficiency to our lives, and we can speculate that it formed in nature so many times for a similar reason.”
In addition to working on the text, I finished up the dendrite science-art that I was working on last week. Here are some photos of my prints:
Check back next week for another update from me and Richelle!