Tag Archives: Consciousness

The Embodied Brain

Though the title of this very blog may lead one to suppose that the processes of human thought, feeling and behaviour are “All in Our Heimgresad” this, in fact, couldn’t be further from the case. The human brain is directly and intimately connected with the body of the human organism. We think what we think, feel what we feel, we are who we are and do what we do both because our brains are wired up in a particular way and because our bodies are configured and composed in a unique manner.

The recent discovery of direct, previously undetected connections between the human brain and the immune system is just one example of the reciprocal relationship between the mind and the body, suggesting the significance of the concept of the “embodied brain”…an idea that will be explored in much more depth in a series of upcoming posts…

SyesWideShut

Courtesy of University of Virginia:

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.

That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?,’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?,’ now we can approach this mechanistically – because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor…

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Four Reasons Why Suarez Bites

Under exceptional stress-inducing circumstances the neural circuits responsible for our “fight or flight” response work to override our conscious feelings and thoughts leading us to act in ways in which we have no sensible control.

With that in mind, this wonderful account of Luis Suárez’ biting behaviour by Prof. Ian Robertson is well worth the short read. The post provides a greatly accessible, tremendously interesting insight into the workings of a brain wired to win and how such a brain might be the cause of aberrant, even abhorrent behaviour.

It is also a reminder that while the brain does allow us to do everything, it cannot itself do everything at the same time.

Thus, at the end of the day, as the post concludes, it is important to remember that Suárez is a human being with a human mind, playing at the top of his game. “To unleash his genius” as Prof. Robertson put it, “Suárez has to enter a mental zone of relative mindlessness”. It just so happens that in his case Suárez’s unconscious mind sees biting as the way in which to, quite literally, reach his goal.

Only our own unconsciousness knows what you or I might have done under the very same conditions…

The Winner Effect

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Why did Luis Suarez sink his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder? – Is he a victim of child-like impulsivity or could he be a vampire? Neither of these is the case, so let me review four possible reasons for his extraordinary behaviour.

  1. The Internal Robot

Anyone who watched Suarez seize the moment to score when England’s Steven Gerrard headed a long goal kick back towards his own goal, was amazed by the speed-of-light response of Suarez to an unpredicted – nay,  unpredictable – event. Here was near-instantaneous judging of an unfamiliar situation and the execution of a brilliant, complex set of bodily responses to it. Here was a sort of genius at work.

To engage in this sort of cognition at lightning speed, you must rely on parts of the brain which function far too fast to be consciously monitored.  This includes regions called the cerebellum and striatum, where…

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