The Brain

Get Results: The Brain
Get Results: The Brain

What is reality?

  • An illusion structured in your head
  • No sound, no colour, no taste
  • Perceive reality as it is, you wouldn’t recognise it
  • Your brain takes in info and sifts through it to find patterns and uses it to create your reality
  • It’s not about what’s hitting your eyes, it’s your brains interpretation
  • Perception has less to do with outside world and more to do with what’s going on inside the brain
  • The brain is completely cut off from the direct senses
  • Sound, vision, hearing, smell and taste is all the same stuff in the head
  • Photons of light or sound waves are getting converted into electro chemical signals that travel through millions of brain cells, known as neurons that send electrical pulses to other neurons. This is what creates our sense of reality.
  • The brain turns it into something meaningful by sifting through a huge stream of incoming data and finds patterns which are assembled into our reality
  • The result of millions of years of evolution
  • Seems effortless and instantaneous
  • When we see, many different systems have to work together. To see we use all the other senses to build a picture of the world around us, sight is only one part of that. We wouldn’t be able to see if we couldn’t touch for instance
  • Example – A blind man, who becomes sighted later is still unable to process the data, as the brain requires rewiring to deal with processing the visual data, something that it has never done before, so it’s like starting from scratch. The parts of his brain that would have dealt with sight have been used by other senses, in its absence
  • Depth perception and facial recognition not being processed by the brain as it would in a person with sight, even 10 years later on
  • Many parts of the brain are used in vision, approx 40%, all are needed to form an image
  • The best view of how the brain operates is to see what happens when it’s interrupted
  • Example – Headset that flips the view of the environment, left becomes right and visa versa
  • Visual data no longer makes intuitive sense
  • Takes brain 1 week to adjust and behave normally and manage in its new reality and after two weeks spacial map is altering, forget what is left and right. It takes a couple of days to readjust afterwards
  • All senses come into play to decode. A new reality is created
  • Babies don’t just touch stuff to feel what they feel, like they are learning how to see
  • Only means something if we can cross reference using other senses. What we touch influences how we see, taste is affected by our sense of smell, sight informs what we hear, and our reality is built by comparing these streams of data and when woven together our reality is constructed.
  • All sensory input takes different times to process and our brains have to merge these together to make our reality. Sound is processed faster than vision, because visual system takes more processing time than the hearing system, but it feels as though it is done instantly
  • Touch of hand is processed faster than touch on foot
  • All data from senses is first collected and processed before the brain builds a story. It takes ½ second to do this. So when we clap our hands, our reality of that clap is ½ after the fact. As a result our reality is based on the past
  • Different parts of the brain deal with different parts of the processing and it is all woven together to create our reality
  • Example – Solitary confinement; Deprived of sensory input – brain begins to create own reality. Going on imaginary trips and see illusions as reality.
  • What we see through our eyes, is less than the data that goes from our Thalamus to the cortex and our visual
  • Data from eyes goes to Thalamus and on to outer brain Cortex and visual Cortex.
  • 6 times as much traffic going in opposite direction
  • Most of what we see is less to do with light from our eyes and more about what’s going on inside heads. An internal generated reality.
  • Known as The internal model
  • Use incoming data to update and correct internal model of the world through past experience, rather than rebuilding our world through sight
  • Example – Mask of face inside and outside appears to be sticking out. Internal model expects to see face stand out not in, so fools us into thinking it is
  • Your model sees what it expects to see. The Thalamus compares with what is coming in through the eyes to our internal model
  • Example – Eyes jump around but the internal model is only being updated, it doesn’t take in all the details, so the scene doesn’t jump around in the same way the eyes do. Data is taken on a need to know basis
  • Anytime you look around, colour doesn’t exist. Colour is reflected as black and white and only becomes colour in our heads
  • Only see a small spectrum of light. Less than 1/10trillonth of the full spectrum
  • All our senses are only picking up a tiny part of the information that is available
  • Nobody is experiencing objective reality, only what we need to perceive, same for all animals. Dogs have great hearing
  • Most people experience the same things, but a small percentage experience the world experience differently. Synesthesia – is a condition where the person sees letters in colours, “Hannah” looks like a sunset. Some see music, some experience many different types of psychotic experiences of life. Chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Everybody’s life is constructed via beliefs and values
  • The Brains experience of time results in it compressing and stretching time, seeming longer or shorter. Moments of terror = slow motion
  • The Amygdala takes all the resources from other parts of brain and records more detail, richer and more vivid, and when replayed in memory they appear to have taken more time. The distortion of this time comes from the memory of the event. The brain is the ultimate story teller.
  • Each brain has its own unique model of the world. Reality is what your brain tells you it is.

What makes you who you are

  • 3 lb organ. Wet biological stuff, fire billion electrical signals every second, results in the experience of being you
  • What shapes who you become?
  • Your life shapes your brain and your brain shapes your life
  • What makes me, me?
  • We are born helpless, more than any other species
  • Many other animals have life skills built in
  • Zebras can run within 45 minutes
  • But if these animals are in a strange environment, they won’t survive
  • People are pre-programmed to survive in any environment by being equipped to “learn” over having certain skills built in
  • We learn on the job
  • This gives us an extraordinary advantage
  • Same number of brain cell (neurons) in children as adults
  • As child grows, age 2, twice as many neurons as adults, after 2 growth is halted, and the number of connections are reduced and existing connections are strengthened. Links not used are lost. We become specialist rather than generalist.
  • But adults cells have stronger connections
  • But this process relies heavily on the outside world (our unique environment) and can go wrong if environment is not conducive to healthy development
  • Example Romanian orphans’ – neural activity reduced, because lower input up to age of 2.
  • When brain is starved of needs, development is stunted
  • And as adults, these orphans are still under-developed
  • What we experience in our early years goes a long way to shaping us in the rest of our lives
  • Genetics also shapes us – hormones change our appearance as teenagers.
  • Brains also change as teenagers. Example teenagers sat in window and have strangers look at her, brain reacts different to adults. Teenagers more sensitive to being looked at compared to adults
  • This is because the medial prefrontal cortex is highly active in teenagers, this results in them being more sensitive in regard to their self-consciousness and the situation in relation to themselves. Emotional situations carry a lot of weight
  • Also poor impulse control as the brain develops, results in greater risk taking
  • As we grow out of our teenage years our brains change less so
  • The knowledge – the Posterior Hippocampus becomes larger through revision.
  • Experience changes the brain through plasticity. The brain is a work-in-progress
  • Our identity is constantly changing, who you are and who you can become
  • Good and bad
  • Charles Witman, killed his wife, mother in law and 13 people. He asked for his brain to be examined, and he had a tumour which was putting pressure on his Amygdala, which is involved in fear and aggression, making him more violent
  • Disease, drugs, and aging can reshape the brain
  • Our brains may change but our MEMORY is a constant part of our personality
  • What if you could meet yourself at different ages – memories are likely to be different in each of yourselves at different ages.
  • When we experience an event we use all our sense that are woven together to make up that experience
  • As a memory it becomes less vivid, and subsequent events supersede it and affect how we feel about that memory.
  • Leading questions can contaminate existing memories
  • It’s even possible to implant completely false memories, if plausible enough. i.e. lost in mall as child, and after giving it time more and more detail creeps into the false memory. We embellish the false memory, we are imaginative storytellers
  • Our memory of the past is not a faithful record, it’s a reconstruction, a mythology
  • Why are our memories so unreliable, because it doesn’t just record what happens, it allows us to simulate what is coming next. It is a narrative that links the past with the future, so that we can work out what we need to do tomorrow
  • Keeping the brain active, helps sidestep the brain as it ages and the onset of disease, creating new neural pathways
  • Conscious experience is our unique perspective of the world. It’s not about the neurons because they will still be there after death, it’s more about how the neurons work together. Like drummers making just random noise, but then start working with one another to create a performance. Consciousness is a performance of neurons.
  • During sleep, the neurons are still interacting as if awake, and in deep sleep they become extremely synchronised but I am not there during this time.
  • I am the relationship between the neurons in a certain state
  • Why do we care about anything. The Meaning of life is the web of associations from our unique history of life experiences
  • We don’t perceive objects as they are, we perceive them as we are. Brains are as unique as snowflakes. We are completely unique from anyone that has and will ever live
  • From cradle to grave, we are works in progress

Who is in control of you?

  • Every action and decision and belief are driven by parts of brain you have no access to, the unconscious
  • Your brain secretly controls everything you do outside of awareness
  • Human consciousness is awaking in the morning, when we wake from sleep
  • Waking is the birth of you. Your brain comes online, but this is also the beginning of a great deception
  • It feels like you are in control of your decisions, but it’s not quite so simple
  • The conscious you makes up a very small percentage of what is going on.
  • The hidden activity includes:
  • Controlling the body – Hitting a baseball happens so quickly, even before conscious awareness has time to kick in
  • Cerebellum in the brain calculates micro adjustments to body to say, just hold a cup of tea, millions of times without our awareness
  • Why is so much of what we do buried out of reach?
  • EEG scans show motor skills reduce cognitive activity load, brain activity is almost in a rest state if what you’re doing is greatly practiced. Carving the skill into neurons so you can perform the task rapidly and without need for conscious attention.
  • New skills change our brains and are hardwired into the structure of our brains (muscle memory)
  • Brain requires only as much energy as a 60 watt light bulb, which is incredible considering its power
  • The consequence of all this, is many processes have become hidden from our consciousness
  • We go into autopilot when carrying out these tasks (such as driving) as our brains and body’s take over
  • Brains can be trained to do any skills automatically and they seem almost super human
  • Blackout of consciousness – enter a flow state. The zone. The neural circuits can run without the conscious mind being present. Perception is heightened, things slow down and things become more vivid, stop thinking and start just doing. Free of thought and struggle
  • The hidden parts of the brain can take control of our body’s and shape our lives in more profound ways
  • Freud pioneered studies about what’s beneath consciousness
  • By watching what’s happening above the surface, you get a peak at what is happening below it
  • Unconscious shapes thoughts and behaviour
  • Eckhart Hess in the 1960’s ran an experiment showing faces and asked questions about how friendly, how attractive this person was. The images were the same women but with dilated eyes – men found the women with dilated eyes more attractive. Brains were analysing details and acting on them, without the men’s conscious awareness
  • Warm coffee =closer relationship, harsh smelling environment = harsher moral decisions, sat next to hand sanitizer = shifts political opinions to a more conservative stance (less outside threats)
  • So why aren’t we just unconscious beings?
  • What is the point of consciousness?
  • Because conscious mind deals with unexpected situations, to make sense of a new situation. When expectations are violated, consciousness is woken up. It also plays a vital role in dealing with problems in internal sub-systems.
  • Conscious is like a CEO, rising above the daily routines to take an oversight role. If you’re hungry but on a diet, your conscious mind tries to work out what’s best and make an executive decision. It has a unique vantage point. Consciousness is a way for individual cells to view themselves as a unified whole. It is a long term planner
  • If consciousness goes completely offline: like a blackout, sleepwalking. Walking involuntarily and doing actions without conscious awareness
  • Unconscious brains steer our behaviour
  • Why do we all do different things, behave in unique ways?
  • Genes also play a part in behaviour. The Y chromosome (males) makes men more prone to violence, environment also affects genes, what happens to us and impacts on genes
  • Culture, ideas, belief systems, environment all interact with our genes
  • Do you have free-will of any kind?
  • We think when we choose to do something we are in control, and get to decide, but science can’t find evidence for this
  • Example – TMS causes participants movements, but the participants thought it was due to their own free-will. The conscious mind is good at telling itself that it made a choice when it hasn’t
  • If there is no free-will, it is still hard to make predictions, because one thing effects something else which effects something else and has a knock on effect and the outcome of all those interactions, results in there being no way of knowing the outcome (ping pong ball into a tank with other ping pong balls)
  • Conscious experience is only a tiny part of what makes us, us. Our inner space is vast, a reflection of the universe perhaps

Decision making processes

  • Our brains are constantly making decisions, we are aware of some, however most of which, we are not
  • Decision making allows us to navigate through life and has led us to where you are now
  • Making choices, looking at options, results in us being constantly in a state of conflict, do this, do nothing or do that
  • Why do you choose one over the other, for example, eat yoghurt or not?
  • These rivalries are internal, different networks competing against one another
  • Example – The word “Blue” in orange colour is confusing. The colour network, competing with the word network
  • Example – Alien hand syndrome
  • The struggle that is waged inside our head every day. Two systems that come into conflict REASONS versus EMOTIONS
  • Example; 4 men on track, out of control carriage heading their way, either move lever to divert onto different route but will kill one (most choose to move lever and kill one but save four), or second scenario, push a man into path of carriage to stop it, killing one to save 4 men (most can’t purposely push man to save 4)
  • Warfare, long range strike, removes the emotion and makes it easier to do
  • Why do we have emotional system?
  • When things go wrong, easy to see what might be happening, for example – Lady who can’t make decisions after having accident and damage to brain, doesn’t care to be able to differentiate between options and this frustrates her
  • Emotion is a necessary component of decision making, can’t decide on one choice over other, doesn’t care for one over the other
  • Need to value one option over the other. If you don’t care it can be hard, so need emotions to help out in the decision making process
  • Emotions important for making decisions
  • Emotions also interact with our physiology, which allow us to put a value on a choice
  • This conversation between body and brain is going on all the time
  • React physically first (heart rate increase, dilated pupils, empty bladder) when facing a threat
  • Hunches start before rational brain kicks in as proven by “Iowa gambling test”. Feeling/intuition spots the fact that cards from stack A and C are more rewarding/lucrative
  • Hunches pick up after 10 cards have been selected, conscious rational brain at 20 cards, as proven by sweat glands showing signs of negative reaction to picking from wrong stack
  • Hunches are the rational brain catching up with emotional brain and physiology
  • Ego depletion – running down on energy, needed by the pre frontal cortex which effects decision making as shown in test of judges making decisions before lunch of guilty and less so after lunch
  • Example lap dancers earned more when ovulating. Estrogen effects how the ladies appear to men, softer skin etc and these are picked up by the men who give them more money
  • Why do you stay with a partner – Oxytocin, strengthens the bond we feel when in a relationship and makes other competitors less attractive. Brains preconditioned decision to keep couples together for sake of offspring
  • Some choices are made by our DNA, which are inherited from parents. Some basic responses are predetermined
  • Example -The greater the disgust response to images shown, the more likely you are to vote conservative within the next 6 months, the less of an adverse response the more likely to vote liberal they are. This was tested by the responses in nervous system after showing gross images to participants
  • How do we make choices about future decisions?
  • We run simulations of the future and give each a value. 10 units for this, 5 units for that, 50 units for the other and we keep re-evaluation options. A best guess of the future outcomes. Our Dopamine system is what is used to change the value of things based of our latest experience of it. If better than expected, evaluation goes up, if worse than expected goes down.
  • When Dopamine goes out of control can lead to addiction. We can lose control of our impulses
  • Example – Sub-prime disaster shows how we can lose control. The pull of the now outweighs consequences in the future. The future is just an idea of what might be. The here and now has much more psychological pull. The present versus future conflict.
  • We rely on will-power to keep us in check, but will-power gets used up and when it’s in short supply we give in to temptations or distractions or just give up altogether, if what we’re doing is hard
  • We use will-power up like a tank of gas
  • Ulysses contract – social pressure to keep us on track, and bind oneself in the future
  • Example: addiction – Suppress on one side and crave on the other, and the conflict and balance between the two, learning to find strategies to move the balance to increase suppression over any cravings. Move away from being a slave to our impulses

What does a brain need to be healthy?

  • Nutrients from food, oxygen and OTHER PEOPLE
  • Our brains are wired to work together
  • We are fundamentally social creatures
  • The most basic encounter relies of trust – buying from a shop
  • Much of our brain activity is dedicated to communication with each other
  • We try to impress each other and exchange ideas
  • Example – Easy to form stories from simple shapes on a screen interacting
  • We look for intention and relationships all around us
  • We navigate the world around us by judging others’ actions
  • Example – Babies (with little life experience) make judgements on teddies that are either mean or nice, based on instinct, not just by what has been learned
  • Many regions of the brain are used in social interaction, this is less defined in people who suffer from Autism, resulting in social integration problems
  • Example – Harvard medical school did a test on a patient who suffered from autism, after being given TMS targeting different parts of his brain. When they did it to the Dorsolateral Prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for abstraction, he became able to read people, where he couldn’t before, and this was completely by accident, and it never went away
  • Movement in facial muscles can be read in milliseconds and we subtly mirror what we see
  • Mirroring happens because it allows us to identify the emotion in others, and read other people. People with Botox are not able to mirror expressions and as a result, correctly identify the other person’s emotion as accurately
  • When we go to the movies, we know what we are seeing is actually make-believe, yet we still react emotionally to what we see. This is because the pain matrix is activated in us and empathy for others is triggered, we kind of feel their pain. We are able to step into their shoes as if it were us. This is hard-wired into us
  • If the brain is starved of human contact we may go into an animal like state, pacing. Then into a plant like state, mind slows down and becomes repetitive. The brain turns on itself and becomes a source of deep psychological pain
  • It creates a reality from the scant sensory input, and makes up stories
  • The world around you is part of who you are, in a vacuum you lose a sense of who you are
  • When we feel excluded, the pain matrix is activated. Social rejection is so meaningful it hurts
  • Our Brain pushes us in the direction of bonding with others. We seek out alliances, a sense of connection
  • We strive to work in groups
  • There is also a flip side to this, where there are in-groups there are outsiders, such as Jews in the war
  • How can the social orientated brain suddenly change into something that can cause genocide? Germany, Bosnia where neighbours killed one another
  • What is going on here? How can this happen?
  • Such occurrences keep happening throughout history. We need to understand genocide as a neural phenomenon
  • Where there is separation between in-groups and out groups our brains are changed and this effects how we respond to other people’s pain if they are perceived as in the outgroup. What team are you on?
  • Networks in prefrontal cortex become active when we interact with others, in psychopaths (who make up a small percentage of the population) this is less so, and with those involved in genocide, who are just everyday people, they dehumanise their victims, seeing them rather like viewing inanimate objects. And group behaviour amplifies this to a greater extent, like group contagion
  • Propaganda plays into this by dehumanising the enemy to appear like animals
  • Example the school children experiment where children were separated into blue and brown eyed children. Putting blue eyed children on top and reversing the day after. The children’s behaviour dramatically changed towards their friends. This changed them forever experiencing both sides of the coin. They realised systems of rules can be arbitrary

What’s next for our brains, what will we be capable of?

  • Who will we be?
  • We’re marrying our biology with our technology
  • Plasticity – example Cameron Mot started having drop seizures, and had the diseased part of her brain removed to try and eradicate it. An entire half of her brain had been effected by the disease. With the loss of all that brain tissue, she has only slight weakness on one side, but not much else. Her brain has overcome the loss of brain tissue, through plasticity
  • All incoming information, through eyes, ears, nose or via touch, is turned into electro chemical signals. The brain makes sense of any input, even through cochlear implants. As long as the input is consistent, the brain will figure out how to use it
  • It doesn’t matter how signals find their way to the brain, it will figure it out over time. There is no limit to the sensory expansion that we can create. The brains capacity to take on new inputs, we should be able to expand the experience of being human
  • We are not confined to the transitional senses
  • There is no limit to what the brain can incorporate
  • How we sense the world is only half the story, the other half is how we interact with it
  • Paralysed woman who’s brain is unable to communicate with her body, is making use of robotics to connect her brain with a robot arm, just by thinking about it. There’s a direct physical link between her robot arm and brain
  • Not just replacing limbs, but improving them, and expanding our capabilities and expanding the body
  • What if technology could address our mortality?
  • When we die all our knowledge and information is lost
  • We might be coming to a time where we could take the information from a dead brain and interact with it again, giving the dead a chance to live again
  • Cryonic suspension to preserve brains and bodies
  • Other ways to access the information from a dead brain, to be able to read it out directly
  • Map out all the huge, and unique connections which underlies all its functions – known as “The Connectome”. Like a wiring diagram
  • Slicing thin slices of brain onto surface of water, each slice pushing the last, like a conveyer belt, into strips, then scanned by electron microscope and magnified hundreds of thousands of times, and then stacking on top of each other and following the neurons through the images to make a 3D model, mapping all the wiring that underpins the brains thought, experiences and beliefs. This would be a zedobyte of data, more than all the current worlds data.
  • But the time might come when computing power isn’t an issue
  • The computational hypotheses – hypotheses if the wet biological part of the brain is not what’s important it’s the connection and interaction that’s important, we could run digitally. It’s not what the mind is, it’s what the brain does.
  • Creating models based on biological data, to create a simulation of a human brain – could the mind live in a computer
  • Create machines that think via AI. Proven to be extremely difficult. The goal of a sentient machine is still to be achieved. Machine learning, like babies to be able to learn, without being pre programmed. With each interaction it learns and builds on its knowledge
  • Lines of code, instead of chain/train of thought. In 1980’s John Surril came up with a thought experiment, called the Chinese room. You are locked in room, outside is someone who only speaks Chinese, you in the room have a book that match Chinese symbols, the Chinese person posts messages to you, you look up the answer, matching the symbols, and post back the matched reply, to Chinese speaker. The Chinese person thinks they are having a conversation with someone that speaks Chinese. But I the operator, don’t understand Chinese. The argument goes, this is how a computer is, just manipulating symbols and following instructions, it doesn’t understand
  • This exposes the difficulties and the mystery of how physical pieces and parts comes to equal our experience of being in the world
  • Looking at the natural world, such as Ants we see how the individuals contribute to a larger organism as the colony. They work individually but all for the common good. Relying of chemical signals from other local ants, when isolated they are very ineffective. The ants work as a system, no one ant sees the bigger picture, but it works as a super organism.
  • Emergent properties. This is thought to be how neurons work, being embedded in a network, reacting to local signals. Enough of them working together and the mind emerges into consciousness.
  • Maybe they need to interact in specific ways to be effective
  • When you wake up in the morning, beforehand there is nothing when you awake there is everything
  • When asleep the strand of activity is restricted, when awake the activity is much more widespread, experiences are bound together a composite of numerous possibilities. Consciousness may come from these patterns of interaction
  • Building consciousness on different media is still in the realms of science fiction, but the possibilities are still there
  • When we imagine simulated life the choices are endless, and what we are experiences of life now might be it. It is difficult to disprove it. How can we ever know what we are experiencing is reality?
  • There is some “me” at the centre of this, trying to figure it out. I’m thinking about it, and therefore “I am”
  • We might be at the point of an evolutionary leap, transformed beyond what has ever been done before

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