Search This Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Brain and its puzzling beauty

Any topic involving study of brain or any of its function is interesting, intriguing and infinitely puzzling.

This half to one KG meat in our species is an unsolved mystery.

So  discussing any topic connected with brain, mind, conscious awareness, thinking, memory  etc most of which form part of , if we can loosely call it , neuroscience .

In this subject there is no final statements can be made by anyone  irrespective of whichever approach they have opted for- scientific, structural, anatomical, biochemical, genomic, psychiatric, philosophical, spiritual, occult, scriptural rant etc.

In my humble view almost all functions of the brain in totality defies most of the explanations. Probably some functions can be explained or explained away.

I have been reading many books and trying to understand it and also through interactions, thanks to internet even with some of the leading evolutionary biologist.

Long back I bought a few encyclopedias on Mind, Psychology etc. Some of them must be with me and went about trying to lay my hands on as many of the reference books mentioned there, restricted by whatever was available at British Council library and Adyar Theosophical society library.

Many scholars spiritual and intellectual before the scientist have also tried to decipher the workings of various aspects, parts of human brain. Then later on scientist gave excellent explanations.

Starting from Adi Shankara to swami Vivekananda to Huxley to Bertrand Russell to J. Krishnamurthy to Colin Wilson to Le Comte Nuoy to Guy Murchie to Steven Pinker to Cral Jung to neuro scientist Ramachandran to name a few have helped me to enlarge my understanding about various workings of the brain.

Once a Harvard professor suggested me to read ‘How the mind works’, which I did read and enjoyed every bit of it. I asked him ‘can you suggest some book on ‘How to make it work’. He said jokingly ‘had I known I would not be teaching at Harvard nor talking to you.’

In the excellent book which I am reading at present ‘The Brain Supremacy-Notes from the Frontiers of neuroscience’- KATHLEEN  TAYLOR starts off

“Science and technology are also changing their nature—and ours.”

“Brain research is already changing our sense of what being human involves, rejecting the age-old idea of a spiritual essence in favour of an organic   approach.   This   is   what   the   feared materialism of   modern science tells us. Brains are the pieces of meat which give us our selves, allowing you and me to exist as the people we are. Without them there would be no music, beauty, poetry, or science. There would be  no vicious murder or despairing suicide either; but also no joy of sex, no delight   in  nature,   no  pleasure  in  getting  lost   in  a  really  good  book.
Everything meaningful in your life and mine needs a cranial pudding to express itself, and each of those puddings is unique, irreplaceable and still   mysterious.   Brains   are   astonishing,   beautiful,   intricate, delicate marvels. Like human lives, they are good things in and of themselves.

If you were ill, and needed a heart transplant to save your life, would you accept one?  Most people would; they feel that having a different heart wouldn’t disrupt their sense of personal   identity.  How about a brain transplant?  If your brain were removed and put into storage to make room for a new, younger cerebrum, would you be in the body or in the storage?  What if all your former synaptic settings were copied across to the   new brain?   Or   if   only   part   of   it—the   cortex—were transplanted?  These thought-experiments and others suggest that we identify ourselves with our brains in a way we don’t with other parts of our bodies. Practical experiments, ethical and otherwise, suggest that we are right to do so. We can swap hearts, lose a kidney, cope without hands or eyes, and still be human, but remove the brain and what’s left is a kind of desecration: manmade meat.”

“The power of self-fashioning.
As well as shaking  up our ideas of what  we are, the  brain supremacy promises   unparalleled  techniques   for   changing  brains   directly: not with  language  or  images  or  drugs,   or  new  gadgets  to  play  with,   but by  altering  the  behaviour  of neurons  and  the  function  of  their genes.

Of course, brain manipulation isn’t novel; we do it indirectly all   the time and we always have. The social power which bends others to your will is so greatly valued that pursuing it  is one  of   humanity’s  great occupations.

With tongues and guns, ideals and incentives, persuasion and  pressure  and  sheer  propaganda,   human  beings  have  had  a  lot  of practice in treating others, pace the strictures of Immanuel Kant, instrumentally: as means to an end, objects to be utilized and adjusted, rather than individuals who are ends in themselves. And the methods we use affect our brains and bodies. Drugs change your genes. So do stressful events, meals eaten, and conversations. Yet we often fail to achieve the changes we want. To date, attempts to control other human beings have faced a mighty obstacle: the bony castle of the skull. That barrier has never been invincible—bullets or an axe will penetrate it—but it has kept out many less violent and crude attacks. Barred from the inner sanctuary of the brain, we were left with the  evolved  skills  of  social  interaction  and  the  knowledge  built  upon them:   psychology,   anthropology,   history,   literature.   That,   plus   rare neurological patients,   years of detailed observation of human  behavior, and what we had learned from studying the brains and behaviours of   other   species. The idea of   an  equivalent   capacity  to  that   of,   say, modern chemistry applied to the management of other human beings is  therefore  a  tremendously  attractive  prospect,   particularly  for  those people  and  institutions  tasked  with  managing  or   predicting  human behaviour.”

No comments: