Last night I took to the cinema to see the recently released action movie “Lucy”. I was well aware of the glaring falsity that made up the premise of the plot–the fictitious idea that we only use 10% of our brains at any one time–before even entering the cinema, but had convinced myself I could ignore this little annoyance and enjoy the action, acting and directing in and of itself.
And in fact I was enjoying it all for quite a bit. Scarlett Johansson (as Lucy) was as wonderful as ever, the music was great, the special effects were very cool, all was going well…
Until, Morgan Freeman.
Playing a college academic, Freeman utterly and unconditionally betrayed my faith in him as Hollywoods’ emblem of wisdom, insight, goodness and understanding. Somehow the words “imagine what we could do if we unlocked the full potential of our brains” were all the more excruciating when emanating from the knowing, dulcet timbre of Freeman’s voice.
For those of you who have watched or are planning to watch the movie, I urge you too to take caution, do not be fooled by Freeman’s worldly tones and sagacious presence, just concentrate on those special effects, the action, the direction and Johanssons abilty to kick-ass
Your reality is a subjective illusion.
We are wired to believe that what we see and hear and feel is what is out there in the environment, that we perceive our surroundings as they are, as a video camera might record a scene.
What the environment actually contains however is a collection of physical laws and properties and what we actually perceive is what our bodily senses have picked up and our brains have interpreted for us. In this way the brain functions as something of an internal video editor constantly chopping and changing the selective information it receives to create a unique view of the world.
One particularly beautiful example of how our brain creates for us the world we know is in the anatomy of the visual system. Visual information enters our eyes as waves of light and is focused onto the back of our eyeballs to be sent along to the brain for interpretation. Unbeknownst to the average individual however, not all the information impinging on the eyes is sent along to the brain. There is a blind-spot located at the back of each eye with no connections to the brain whatsoever, any information from our field of vision that hits this spot is lost to us. In this case our brain steps up to literally fill in the blanks based on the surrounding information, giving us the illusion of a complete picture.
We can also appreciate how different each of our perceptions must be when we consider the fact that each and every brain is distinct in its neural connections and structures, in the memories it holds and the way in which it interprets and integrates information.
The human senses also vary greatly between individuals. For example; the average human adult can hear sounds at frequencies of 20-20,000 Hertz. As we grow older we tend to loose the hair cells that pass the highest-frequency sounds from the environment to our brains, children can therefore hear tones up to a higher frequency of 25,000Hz and the elderly often cannot hear tones as high as 20,000Hz (you can actually try a few online tests to work out your own hearing age).
Thus, our understanding of the world is but a conjuring trick, a rough model of what is happening in the environment based on unconscious integration within the brain of fragments of perception, memory and supposition.
What is truly amazing and really worth taking away from this is how we all get around as well as we do considering how differently each of us perceives the world, considering we are each living inside our own uniquely edited illusion…
This characteristically, and aptly, seething piece from NeuroBollocks illustrates one of the most common ways neuro-myths (such as this one) can become such rooted misconceptions within the general public. Well worth the read and a share!
Regardless what you think of infographics (and personally, I think they’re largely a pustulent, suppurating boil on the bloated arse of the internet) there are some good, useful ones out there. However, these are vastly outweighed by the thousands of utterly ghastly, misleading, poorly-referenced and pointless ones.
Because I’ve been on holiday for the last week, my levels of rage and misanthropy have dropped somewhat from their usual DEFCON-1-global-thermonuclear-war-the-only-winning-move-is-not-to-play levels, so I thought trying to find the absolute worst neuroscience-related infographics on the web might be a good way to top the vital bile reserves back up again. And oh boy, was I right. There are some doozies.
First up is this purple and blue monstrosity titled ’15 things you didn’t know about the brain.’ Here we learn (amongst other howlers) that the capacity of the brain is 4 terabytes, men process information on the left side while women use…
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In an age where a 140 character message can spread around the world like the wildest of wildfires or a pizza-slice can transform into a bikini model with the artistic flare of a photo-shop engineer, we should be adept at closing our ears to hearsay and tattle and all sorts of false truths. Every now and then however the intuitive appeal of certain ideas tend to seep through even the most stringent of BS filters, making their way into a common garden of popular misconceptions.
One such idea is the weed of a notion that one side of our brain is more functionally dominant than the other resulting in individual differences in traits such as creativity, analytic ability or orderliness.
With Facebook statuses sharing results from BuzzFeed brain-dominance tests, professional write-ups detailing the personality traits of those who use one hemisphere of their brain more so than the other, even guidance counsellors basing career recommendations on tests of brain-sidedness, this myth just wont die.
To slice the ever-growing misconception at its stem, it is simply not true that one side of the brain does reason and analytical thinking and the other emotion and creativity. Simply not true. It is not true that the left-hemisphere is 100% responsible for language, or that the right-hemisphere is entirely in charge of creative thought.