Gliocentric Hypothesis
© 2012 EEASI Corporation



Central to understanding our research is the Gliocentric Hypothesis. Here is the background on this concept: the brain contains 100 billion neurons and one trillion glial cells. Glial cells out number neurons 10:1. Yet, until recently, it was believed that the neurons were the primary dynamical source in the brain. New research has suggested a new vision of brain dynamics. In particular, the new concept is called the Gliocentric Hypothesis and asserts that:

All learning, memory, cognition and adaptation that the human is capable of is a result of the glial mass managing the neural mass, hence it is the glial mass that is the driving, executive  force in the brain, not the neural mass

A question I am often asked is “How did tennis become so important for medical research?” The answer: a mutual friend (I will call her B) of Professor Freeman and I, who was a triathlete, contracted viral encephalitis in 1995. After the disease was halted it became clear that she has lost generalized movement throughout her body. Walter and I were aware of how ineffective current rehabilitation methods were and, therefore, we decided we had to do something new. Learning a sport seemed far more likely to help B than any other route. But swimming, running and biking were clearly not the way to go. After extensive analysis, we decided on tennis.   The end result was that all athletic skills were recovered through using tennis as a venue for brain trauma rehabilitation. Our success motivated us to go further with this concept. But the current view of brain dynamics seemed too limited. In order to go forward, we had to look more deeply into how the brain works and how tennis skills were formed through training. That was the start of an eighteen year research journey.

Here is where we are now:

Our view, as a scientific community, of how the brain functions is in flux. Classical theory, [Kandel, et. al., 2000], [Shepherd, 1994], [Matthews, 2001], [Nunez, 1981], [Norden, 2007], [Springer and Deutsch, 1998], asserts that the dynamics of the brain are neurocentric, i.e., the neural mass (10% of the brain) is responsible for all we see in human behavior. However, that view is being challenged by recent laboratory results that suggest that the glial mass (90% of the brain) is the substrate for cognition, learning, memory and adaptation, [Fields 2004, 2009], [Koob 2009], [Verkhratsky and Butt, 2007], [Galambos, 1961], [Allen and Barres, 2005]. To establish a definitive answer to the question “Is the neural mass or the glial mass in charge of human behavior?” it will be necessary to go beyond the laboratory and investigate humans engaged in normal, but complex human activities. In 1995, Professor Walter Freeman at U.C. Berkeley and Dr. Brown embarked on an unconventional project to investigate neurodynamics using a normal human venue as the “laboratory”.  After extensive analysis, the sport of tennis was deemed the best possible choice of venue. After seventeen years of research, the study of tennis training and competition has yielded significant results in the fields of neurodynamics. Special training protocols have been developed, a textbook is in draft form, and an entire program of training has been developed and tested to serve as a rigorous scientific framework for research into the human mind. In this regard, EASI has organized its neuroscience research project into three phases. Phase ONE was the original establishment of tennis as a research venue with initial protocols and a single student. This Phase started in 1996 and continued to 2006. In 2006 (Phase TWO), EASI expanded its student base to 12 and refined the entire program to address the full spectrum of issues in tennis training and correlate those issues with the issues of neuroscience. In Phase TWO, EASI became a formal tennis training academy. 

The conclusions drawn so far from this program are persuasive and supportive of what we have named the Gliocentric Hypothesis.  We have arrived at this hypothesis independently of all laboratory results and solely on the basis of observing normal humans engaged in the complex task of developing high-level tennis skills.  This is significant for two reasons: (1) using any sport to advance a highly complex and sophisticate theory of neuroscience is unprecedented; (2) the use of tennis as a research venue to study the brain without probes, EEG, MRI or any conventional intrusive or restrictive device demonstrates that significant strides in the understanding of human behavior are possible without the usual controls on subjects needed to test a hypothesis. What was needed was simply careful passive observation.