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…
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.
I’ve emphasised again and again how critical a functioning brain is for human behaviour and, of course, life. While there’s still very little known about the root and run of the conscious mind, ideas purposed by leading theorists, many findings from the cognitive sciences, even the very title of this blog, strongly suggest that personality and consciousness are products of the functioning brain, that all there is to us is the neural cogs, wheels and connections residing inside our head.
When considered in light of the inevitable brain death waiting at the end of our days this makes for rather morbid reading. When our neurons stop signalling, our neural structures start shrinking, when our cerebral cogs quit connecting and our cognitive wheels stop spinning…mustn’t our presence on earth also end?
Not so. And the following speech by American comedian and journalist Aaron Freeman eloquently conveys why this is the case.
Freeman’s words about why you should have a Physicist speak at your funeral, make up the most moving piece of pros I’ve ever read, or heard, relating to the world post brain activity. No matter your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, this piece will move you, it will reassure you, it will teach you that not only did your very presence change the world, but it will continue to do so. It will enlighten you as to how you, your family members, your friends, your favourite musicians, poets and playwrights, how we all continue to be when the brain no longer speaks.
I couldn’t but share…
The brain does not feel pain within itself.
While there are many pain-sensitive areas surrounding it, the tissue of the brain lacks the pain receptors (or nociceptors) that cause a person to experience the sensation of pain. In fact the brain contains no sensory system of any kind, meaning changes in temperature, pressure or damage to brain tissue cannot be felt by the brain unless they affect an area connected to the nervous system.
Therefore, in actuality, headaches, no matter how severe, do not stem from any disruption in the brain itself. Rather, they occur because of disturbances or abnormalities in the structures surrounding the brain, including the many nerves, muscles, arteries, veins and subcutaneous tissues as well as the eyes, ears, sinuses and the cranium.
In fact a person may never detect the presence of a brain tumor or cyst unless it begins to exert pressure on the surrounding nerve tissue or blood vessels.