Our Incredible Brain

The brain is probably the most complex system we know. A gelatinous mass weighing approximately 3 pounds, it contains about 100 million neurons and each one has up to 10,000 potential synaptic connections to other neurons. While science has developed ways of learning about our grey matter, much of it is still a mystery. From dreams and sleep to the way it processes information without our conscious knowledge. From controlling our breathing, temperature and heart rate to abstract thought. From creativity, in all shapes and forms, to going beyond average performance. The brain has some fascinating abilities.

1. The Internal Clock: Like a computer that runs programs silently in the background, so too does the human brain. The subconscious mind is in permanent operation, even when we sleep. In an article entitled The Amazing Unconscious, in NewScientist.com, the author writes, “Our brains have an uncanny knack for working stuff out, with no need for conscious involvement.” For instance, our brain seems to come equipped not only with an alarm clock, but an internal clock as well that keeps track of time. Researchers at Lubeck University in Germany told test subjects that they would be woken at 6am. At 4:30 am, the subjects’ brain started producing a stress hormone which peaked at 6:00am. This jump started the waking process…and at the correct time.

2. Snap Judgements: The brain has the ability to make surprisingly accurate judgements in seconds. A study at Stanford University in the U.S. involved one group of subjects that were shown 2-second, 5-second and 10-second silent video clips of teachers. They were then asked to rate each teacher’s traits including competence, confidence and honesty. The scores of these results were the same as for a separate group that were given more time to make the above assessments.

3. Auto-pilot: We probably take this ability for granted, but we use it every day. When we learn new tasks, the prefrontal cortex of our brain (the thinking part) gets involved. Over time, however, as we become familiar with a task and as it becomes routine, the prefrontal cortex is phased out in order to free it up for future learning and processing. In the meantime, another part of the brain which runs in the background will remember how to ride a bicycle, drive a car or tie shoelaces without us actively thinking about the action. How many times have you arrived at a destination and cannot remember actually driving? Chances are, it is a route you have driven countless times, enough for our brain to “automate” the process.

4. The Plastic Brain: Until the 1970’s, it was believed that the brain underwent great change during childhood and adolescence, but once we reach adulthood, it becomes static, fixed, unchangeable. From the 1970’s onwards, studies began to show the opposite. The adult brain has, in fact, the ability to alter and adapt in response to changing activities, experiences and the changing environment. The brain’s ability to reorganise itself is called neuroplasticity.

In the late 1980’s, studies of stroke victims found that regions of the brain sometimes took over from the affected parts, depending on the extent of the injury. Plasticity was also observed in the rewiring of psychiatric conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. Journalist and author Sharon Begley wrote in her book, The Plastic Mind (2009), “The brain can indeed be rewired. It can expand the area that is wired to move fingers, forging new connections that underpin the dexterity of an accomplished violinist. It can activate long-dormant wires and run new cables like an electrician bringing an old house up to code, so that regions that once saw can feel or hear. It can quiet circuits that once crackled with the aberrant activity that characterizes depression and cut pathological connections that keep the brain in the oh-god-something-is-wrong state that marks obsessive compulsive disorder.”

To be continued….

By Elaina Curran, HPD, DSFH, AdvDPLRT, Past Life Regression Therapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist

As published in BS35 Local Magazine, June 2019 issue


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