Friday, September 10, 2021

Episode 594 (9-13-21): Neurons, Ions, and Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:18).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-10-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 13, 2021.  This revised episode from December 2018 is part of a series this fall of episodes on water connections to the human body and human biology.

MUSIC – ~ 15 sec – Lyrics:  “Well you’re nothing but a pack of neurons, in a shapely bag of goo.  All your thoughts and dreams, your hopes and schemes, are electrochemical, too.”

This week, that music sets the stage for describing some biochemical and electro-chemical aspects of the water-based environment inside of us.  Have a listen for about 45 more seconds.

MUSIC – ~47 sec – Lyrics: “Well the first time I ever saw your face, dear, my ions began to diffuse.  Your eyes aglow made the sodium flow through those membrane avenues.  When our fingers unite, more than synapses excite, and those lips I can’t refuse.  I know we’re more than just a chemical reaction, ‘cause I’m in love with you-oo-oo, I’m in love with you.  Well you’re nothing but a pack of neurons, controlling a bag of goo.  All your thoughts and dreams, your hopes and schemes, are electrochemical, too.  You are what you eat, ‘cept for what you excrete, so watch out what you chew.  You’re nothing but a pack of neurons, and I’m in love with you-oo-oo, I’m in love with you.  This is the part where the sodium and potassium ions do a little soft-shoe.”

You’ve been listening to part of “Pack of Neurons,” by Bob Gramann of Fredericksburg, Va., on his 2008 album, “Mostly Live.”  According to Mr. Gramann, the title “Pack of Neurons” was inspired by the use of that phrase in The Astonishing Hypothesis, a 1994 book by Francis Crick on human consciousness.   Dr. Crick shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins for their discoveries of the structure of the DNA molecule.

Mr. Gramann’s song is a light-hearted look at the fundamental role of neurons, of nerve cells, in transmitting the electrical impulses that control humans’ mental and physical processes.  Those nerve impulses are transmitted along neurons by changes in the concentration of electrically-charged atoms of sodium and potassium. [Note, not in audio: Neurons are the type of nerve cell that transmits impulses.  The nervous system also has other supporting cells.]  Water is vital as the solvent for those charged atoms, known as ions.  And not just in neurons, but in all biological cells, a water-based solution is the medium in which biochemical substances exist and react.  Regarding water-based solutions, chemist Linus Pauling in 1970 wrote, “One of the most striking properties of water is its ability to dissolve many substances”—including, we might add, ions transmitting the nerve impulses that right now are allowing you to hear or read these words.

Thanks to Bob Gramann for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 20 more seconds of “Pack of Neurons.”

MUSIC – ~21 sec - Instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 450, 12-10-18, and Episode 93, 12-19-11.

“Pack of Neurons,” from the 2008 album “Mostly Live,” is copyright by Bob Gramann, used with permission.  Bob Gramann’s Web site is

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Diagram of a neuron.  Image from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, “SEER Training Modules: Introduction to the Nervous System—Nerve Tissue,” online at; the specific URL for the diagram was, as of 9-8-21.


The following information is quoted from National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, “SEER Training Modules: Review: Introduction to the Nervous System,” online at, accessed 9/10/21.

*The nervous system is the major controlling, regulatory, and communicating system in the body. It is the center of all mental activity including thought, learning, and memory.

*The various activities of the nervous system can be grouped together as three general, overlapping functions: sensory, integrative, and motor.

*Neurons are the nerve cells that transmit impulses.  Supporting cells are neuroglia.

*The three components of a neuron are a cell body or soma, one or more afferent processes called dendrites, and a single efferent process called an axon.

*The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord.  Cranial nerves, spinal nerves, and ganglia make up the peripheral nervous system.

*The afferent division of the peripheral nervous system carries impulses to the CNS; the efferent division carries impulses away from the CNS.

*There are three layers of meninges around the brain and spinal cord.  The outer layer is dura mater, the middle layer is arachnoid, and the innermost layer is pia mater.

*The spinal cord functions as a conduction pathway and as a reflex center.  Sensory impulses travel to the brain on ascending tracts in the cord. Motor impulses travel on descending tracts.


Used for Audio

Stewart W. Holmes, “You are Nothing but a Pack of Neurons,” ETC: A Review of General Semantics, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Winter 1994-95), pages 406-412, accessed online at (subscription may be needed for access).

Nobel Media AB, “The discovery of the molecular structure of DNA—the double helix,” Sept. 30, 2003, online at 

Linus Pauling, General Chemistry, Dover Publications, New York, N.Y, 1970).  The quotation used in this episode’s audio is found on page 447.

Scott K. Powers and Edward T. Howley, Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance, 8th Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, N.Y., 2012.  See particularly pages 142-148, “Organization of the Nervous System.”

Publishers Weekly, “Review of The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, by Francis Crick,” Jan. 3, 1994, online at

University of Bristol (England), School of Medical Sciences, “Brain Basics: The Fundamentals of Neuroscience,” online at

For More Information about the Human Nervous System

Eric Cudler, “Neuroscience for Kids,” online at

National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, “SEER Training Modules: Introduction to the Nervous System,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Science” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on connections of water to human biology.  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in fall 2021; in those cases, the respective links below will have information on the updated episodes. 

Episode 195, 1-6-14 – Water thermodynamics.
Episode 287, 10-26-15
– Skeleton system connections to water.
Episode 393, 11-6-17
– Disease: Influenza.
Episode 450, 12-10-18
– Neurological system connections to water.
Episode 466, 4-1-19
– Water intake and sports.
Episode 517, 3-23-20
and Episode 519, 4-6-20 – Disease: Water connections to COVID-19.
Episode 592, 8-30-21
– Overview of water’s roles in the body.
Episode 593, 9-6-21
– Circulatory system connections to water.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-3 plus 5: Matter
3.3 – Materials interact with water.
5.7 – Matter has properties and interactions. 

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.

Life Science
LS.2 – All living things are composed of one or more cells that support life processes, as described by the cell theory.

BIO.2 – Chemical and biochemical processes are essential for life.
BIO.3 – Cells have structure and function. 

CH.5 – Solutions behave in predictable and quantifiable ways.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.