One Of The Underlying Concepts In Your Book Is What You Call The Cerebral Mystique Can You Explain What It Means And Why This View Of The Brain Is Distorting Our Real Natures
This book is largely about two opposite ideas: the biological mind centered on the brain, in which influences from the rest of the body and outside the body shape what we think and do, and the cerebral mystique, a complex of stereotypes and ideals about the brain, which tend to treat it as an isolated and all-powerful entity, almost like a modern version of the soul.
The problem with having a dualistic view of the brain and its relationship to the physical body, and the physical world, is that it makes us see ourselves as unnaturally self-contained, both as minds and as autonomous agents. In other words, we view ourselves as things that operate from within, so were less sensitive to things that influence us on the outside. The idea that the brain is a machine, an abstract entity like a giant supercomputer, has been around for a while, basically since computers. Other people have used a quantum analogy for the brain. But the idea of the brain as a computer is the most common in this day and age.
The Biggest Part: The Cerebrum
The biggest part of the brain is the cerebrum. The cerebrum is the thinking part of the brain and it controls your voluntary muscles the ones that move when you want them to. So you need your cerebrum to dance or kick a soccer ball.
You need your cerebrum to solve math problems, figure out a video game, and draw a picture. Your memory lives in the cerebrum both short-term memory and long-term memory . The cerebrum also helps you reason, like when you figure out that you’d better do your homework now because your mom is taking you to a movie later.
The cerebrum has two halves, with one on either side of the head. Scientists think that the right half helps you think about abstract things like music, colors, and shapes. The left half is said to be more analytical, helping you with math, logic, and speech. Scientists do know for sure that the right half of the cerebrum controls the left side of your body, and the left half controls the right side.
Your Brain Has Three Main Jobs
Managing your unconscious or ‘automatic’ functions, such as heartbeat, breathing, digestion and control of body temperature.
It’s this third job that we’re particularly interested in as this is where your thinking skills come in.
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Right Brain Left Brain
The cerebrum is divided into two halves: the right and left hemispheres They are joined by a bundle of fibers called the corpus callosum that transmits messages from one side to the other. Each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body. If a stroke occurs on the right side of the brain, your left arm or leg may be weak or paralyzed.
Not all functions of the hemispheres are shared. In general, the left hemisphere controls speech, comprehension, arithmetic, and writing. The right hemisphere controls creativity, spatial ability, artistic, and musical skills. The left hemisphere is dominant in hand use and language in about 92% of people.
It Is Literally Impossible For Our Brains To Multi
Multi-tasking is something weve long been encouraged to practice, but it turns out multitasking is actually impossible. When we think were multi-tasking, were actually context-switching. That is, were quickly switching back-and-forth between different tasks, rather than doing them at the same time.
The book Brain Rules explains how detrimental multi-tasking can be:
Research shows your error rate goes up 50 percent and it takes you twice as long to do things.
The problem with multi-tasking is that were splitting our brains resources. Were giving less attention to each task, and probably performing worse on all of them:
When the brain tries to do two things at once, it divides and conquers, dedicating one-half of our gray matter to each task.
Here is how this looks like in reality. Whilst we try to do both Action A and Action B at the same time, our brain is never handling both simultaneously. Instead, it has to painfully switch back and forth and use important brainpower just for the switching:
When our brains handle a single task, the prefrontal cortex plays a big part. Heres how it helps us achieve a goal or complete a task:
The anterior part of this brain region forms the goal or intentionfor example, I want that cookieand the posterior prefrontal cortex talks to the rest of the brain so that your hand reaches toward the cookie jar and your mind knows whether you have the cookie.
When a third task was added, the volunteers results plummeted:
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More Excitation Than Inhibition
Neuronal communication is exquisitely regulated as a balance between excitatory and inhibitory influences . A given neuron receives hundreds of inputs, almost exclusively on its dendrites and cell body. These inputs add and subtract in a constantly evolving pattern, depending on what the brain is thinking. This is a process called synaptic integration, which determines whether a neuron becomes active.
In order to become active, the total input must reach a threshold at which excitation outweighs inhibition enough. Only at this point will the receiving neuron spike, adding its voice to the conversation by releasing its own neurotransmitter.
Figure 2: A neuron spikes when a combination of all the excitation and inhibition it receives makes it reach threshold. On the right is an example from an actual neuron in the mouse’s cortex.
How Many Brain Cells Does A Human Have
The human brain contains about 86 billion nerve cells called “gray matter,” according to a 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The brain also has about the same number of non-neuronal cells, such as the oligodendrocytes that insulate neuronal axons with a myelin sheath. This gives axons a white appearance, and so these axons are called the brain’s “white matter.”
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Your Brain Does Creative Work Better When Youre Tired
When I explored the science of our body clocks and how they affect our daily routines, I was interested to find that a lot of the way Id planned my days wasnt really the best way to go about it. The way we work, in particular, actually has a lot to do with the cycles of our body clocks.
Heres how it breaks down:
If youre a morning lark, say, youll want to favor those morning hours when youre feeling more fresh to get your most demanding, analytic work done. Using your brain to solve problems, answer questions and make decisions is best done when youre at your peak
For night owls, this is obviously a much later period in the day.
On the other hand, if youre trying to do creative work, youll actually have more luck when youre more tired and your brain isnt functioning as efficiently. This sounds crazy, but it actually makes sense when you look at the reasoning behind it. Its one of the reasons why great ideas often happen in the shower after a long day of work.
If youre tired, your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on a particular task. Its also a lot less efficient at remembering connections between ideas or concepts. These are both good things when it comes to creative work, since this kind of work requires us to make new connections, be open to new ideas and think in new ways. So a tired, fuzzy brain is much more use to us when working on creative projects.
The National Institute Of Neurological Disorders And Stroke
Since its creation by Congress in 1950, the NINDS has grown to become the leading supporter of neurological research in the United States. Most research funded by the NINDS is conducted by scientists in public and private institutions such as universities, medical schools, and hospitals. Government scientists also conduct a wide array of neurological research in the more than 20 laboratories and branches of the NINDS itself. This research ranges from studies on the structure and function of single brain cells to tests of new diagnostic tools and treatments for those with neurological disorders.
For information on other neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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Why Your Brain Is Not A Computer
For decades it has been the dominant metaphor in neuroscience. But could this idea have been leading us astray all along? By Matthew Cobb
We are living through one of the greatest of scientific endeavours the attempt to understand the most complex object in the universe, the brain. Scientists are accumulating vast amounts of data about structure and function in a huge array of brains, from the tiniest to our own. Tens of thousands of researchers are devoting massive amounts of time and energy to thinking about what brains do, and astonishing new technology is enabling us to both describe and manipulate that activity.
We can now make a mouse remember something about a smell it has never encountered, turn a bad mouse memory into a good one, and even use a surge of electricity to change how people perceive faces. We are drawing up increasingly detailed and complex functional maps of the brain, human and otherwise. In some species, we can change the brains very structure at will, altering the animals behaviour as a result. Some of the most profound consequences of our growing mastery can be seen in our ability to enable a paralysed person to control a robotic arm with the power of their mind.
Is There Such A Thing As Being Left
Well, your brain definitely has a left side and a right side . Each hemisphere controls certain functions and movement on the opposite side of your body.
Beyond that, the left brain is more verbal. Its analytical and orderly. It takes in the small details, and then puts them together to understand the whole picture. The left brain handles reading, writing, and calculations. Some call it the logical side of the brain.
The right brain is more visual and deals in images more than words. It processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous manner. It takes in the big picture, and then looks at the details. Some say its the creative, artsy side of the brain.
Theres a popular theory that people can be divided into left-brained or right-brained personalities based on one side being dominant. Left-brained people are said to be more logical, and right-brained people are said to be more creative.
After a two-year analysis , a team of neuroscientists found no evidence to prove this theory. Brain scans showed that humans dont favor one hemisphere over the other. Its not likely that the network on one side of your brain is substantially stronger than the opposite side.
As with most things relating to the human brain, its complicated. While each hemisphere has its strengths, they dont work in isolation. Both sides contribute something to logical and creative thinking.
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Do We Really Use Only 10 Percent Of Our Brain
Its one of Hollywoods favorite bits of pseudoscience: human beings use only 10 percent of their brain, and awakening the remaining 90 percentsupposedly dormantallows otherwise ordinary human beings to display extraordinary mental abilities. In Phenomenon , John Travolta gains the ability to predict earthquakes and instantly learns foreign languages. Scarlett Johansson becomes a superpowered martial-arts master in Lucy . And in Limitless Bradley Cooper writes a novel overnight.
This ready-made blueprint for fantasy films is also a favorite among the general public. In a survey, 65 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, People only use 10 percent of their brain on a daily basis. But the truth is that we use all of our brain all of the time.
Weve been able to back up these logical conclusions with hard evidence. Imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging , allow doctors and scientists to map brain activity in real time. The data clearly shows that large areas of the brainfar more than 10 percentare used for all sorts of activity, from seemingly simple tasks like resting or looking at pictures to more complex ones like reading or doing math. Scientists have yet to find an area of the brain that doesnt do anything.
Why Study The Brain
The brain is the most complex part in the human body. This three-pound organ is responsible for our intelligence, interpreting sensation, initiating body movement, and controlling all of our behaviors.
The brain and the rest of the central nervous system are composed of a variety of cells, but the primary functional unit is a cell called a neuron. All sensations, movements, , memories, and feelings are the result of signals that pass through neurons of differing shapes, sizes, and functions. The average brain contains 80-90 billion neurons, the cell bodies of which form gray matter. Many, many more specialized cells called glia protect and support neurons in gray matter, and provide insulation for their delicate interconnections in the white matter. The folds in the human brain form sulci and gyri , adding to its surface area to maximize the number of cells that can pack into our skulls, and increasing the quantity of information we can process.
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The Geography Of Thought
Each cerebral hemisphere can be divided into sections, or lobes, each of which specializes in different functions. To understand each lobe and its specialty we will take a tour of the cerebral hemispheres, starting with the two frontal lobes , which lie directly behind the forehead. When you plan a schedule, imagine the future, or use reasoned arguments, these two lobes do much of the work. One of the ways the frontal lobes seem to do these things is by acting as short-term storage sites, allowing one idea to be kept in mind while other ideas are considered. In the rearmost portion of each frontal lobe is a motor area , which helps control voluntary movement. A nearby place on the left frontal lobe called Brocas area allows thoughts to be transformed into words.
When you enjoy a good mealthe taste, aroma, and texture of the foodtwo sections behind the frontal lobes called the parietal lobes are at work. The forward parts of these lobes, just behind the motor areas, are the primary sensory areas . These areas receive information about temperature, taste, touch, and movement from the rest of the body. Reading and arithmetic are also functions in the repertoire of each parietal lobe.
As you look at the words and pictures on this page, two areas at the back of the brain are at work. These lobes, called the occipital lobes , process images from the eyes and link that information with images stored in memory. Damage to the occipital lobes can cause blindness.
A New Movement Known As Transhumanism Seeks To Transform Us By Re
Transhumanism, with its focus on the brain, is about creating people who somehow go beyond the bounds of the normal. The Internet of the mind is the idea of linking minds directly to the Internet through brain implants, without the need for speech or typing, or annoying things we spend so much time doing. Its not so much I think this is a dark and dangerous thing to do. I personally dont find it appealing. But I think that the allure of that kind of futuristic direction, promoted by people like Elon Musk, is to some extent fueled by this cerebral mystique: the idea that in order to be futuristic about the mind we have to touch the brain. I argue that mental performance can be improved without touching the brain.
One example Im fond of is making people better drivers. One of the top approaches the automobile industry is pursuing is to take people completely out of the picture. But why do we need to interface the car to the brain? Just train the car to do better. In my opinion, there is very little we have to fear from brain technologies that we dont already have close analogues of in society. This isnt a revolutionary thing to say. Nevertheless, the public fascination with the brain makes people speculate about all these horrible things.
Gene And Protein Expression
Bioinformatics is a field of study that includes the creation and advancement of databases, and computational and statistical techniques, that can be used in studies of the human brain, particularly in the areas of gene and protein expression. Bioinformatics and studies in genomics, and functional genomics, generated the need for DNA annotation, a transcriptome technology, identifying genes, their locations and functions.GeneCards is a major database.
As of 2017, just under 20,000 protein-coding genes are seen to be expressed in the human, and some 400 of these genes are brain-specific. The data that has been provided on gene expression in the brain has fuelled further research into a number of disorders. The long term use of alcohol for example, has shown altered gene expression in the brain, and cell-type specific changes that may relate to alcohol use disorder. These changes have been noted in the synaptictranscriptome in the prefrontal cortex, and are seen as a factor causing the drive to alcohol dependence, and also to other substance abuses.