The interstitium

At one of our last in-person conferences, Dag’s presentation was on the subcutaneous tissue system that encloses the body. Was that the integumentum? One of the illustrations was a photograph of this full-body sheath delicately removed from a cadaver. What year was that, and Dag, and do you have the presentation files still?

Here’s a story about the interstitium, a newly discovered body system that has to be very important in the somatic branch of the perceptual control hierarchy.

The interstitium pervades every collagen structure throughout the body. Collagen is not just passive structural material, it is shot through with little tubes and tunnels bearing water, 25% of the total water in the body, 4x the water in the blood, water with many important substances dissolved in it. A vast fluid ‘highway’ system throughout the body connecting every organ to every other. It appears that movement of heart and lungs move this fluid. (The heart’s systol pumps blood, the diastol appears to pump interstitial fluid.) They’re still figuring this out. And a lot else. There’s a lot to figure out.

Radiolab tells the story very well.

One of the discoverers was at a conference in China, and was asked to present what they had found. The first questioner afterward was trained in both western and oriental medicine, and he said “we’ve been talking about this for 4000 years”, meaning the acupuncture meridians.

Some cautious technical stuff about it.

And moving right along to collective control, the metaphorical extension to interstitial people who communicate between disciplinary silos. The producer of the RadioLab podcast wrote this piece:

This rings true to me as a lifelong interloper, loping between fields. And, need I say, PCT provides a conceptual interstitium for intercommunication between many fields.

A favorite passage fairly early in the podcast, paraphrased:

“Cognitive dissonance is a really good place to be in any science, because you know there’s some missing piece in your understanding here that will make this all make sense.”