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The Nature of Us

with 7 comments

brain_power_memory_2_3For a Saturday night and Sunday morning, during which I rarely think about anymore profound than what movie to watch and whether to have brunch or lunch, this particular weekend has been rather “deep.”

It started off Saturday afternoon when I watched a PBS show titled “Scientific American Frontiers,” hosted by Alan Alda. I think I might have seen bits and pieces of it before, but never watched an entire hour of it. The theme of this particular show–memory, consciousness, dreams, and learning–was fascinating.

One of the things that struck me as remarkably uncommon was, despite their obvious intelligence, each of the scientists engaged in the discussions and presentations of their theories and experiments seemed humble, with an attitude of “we still don’t know exactly how these things work.” They realize that with every answer, the doors to more questions are opened.

One of the topics covered concerned a woman whose left brain did not develop at all (actually did not grow… she had no left brain) due to a stroke in utero. However, her language skills were excellent. Language is normally controlled by the left side of theย  brain. Apparently, because language is so crucial, the right side of her brain took over the controls and allowed her to develop normal language and communication skills. However, her spatial skills, normally controlled by the right side, had been “crowded out” by the more important need for language development, and so she had very little/poor spatial skills. So like RAM in a computer, her left side only had a certain amount of processing power, and it was being utilized for processing language, and not for other, less crucial skills. (I know this analogy is not without flaws, but it makes the general point. ๐Ÿ™‚

Additionally, there was an interesting segment on false memories in which Alda was the test subject. Even someone like him, who was aware that he was being tested, and who was paying really close attention to the scene before him, had false memories implanted into his head 25% of the time, just by looking at similar photos of things he had NOT seen in real life. It was fascinating and disturbing at the same time. (It also makes me realize that perhaps I should not be so dogmatic when I think I remember something EXACTLY as it happened. ๐Ÿ™‚

And then there was a segment about consciousness and how we define it and try to nail it down, but because it’s so individual to each one of us (basically, the nature of “who I am”) that it might never be able to be studied in full because of the subjectiveness of not only the subject, but the observer as well.

And finally, a while back, I was considering memories. I posited the question on Facebook, speculating if our memories are intact as individuals on different spots in our brain, and if it’s just a matter of accessing one -or- if separate pieces of memory are scattered in our brain, and they’re pulled together in something like a central processor. Well, according to one Harvard researcher, it’s the latter. The housing places of smells, sights, sounds, and touch all reside in different places in the brain, and it’s the hippocampus that pulls them all together. That’s stating it too simply, but that’s the thrust of it.

The segment about dreams was interesting too, with the scientist saying that there is no meaning to dreams. They’re bits of brain junk that are trying to be made into meaningful patterns, again, by the hippocampus. Of course, WHY these particular bits of brain junk are being released may have some significance, but they did not address that.

Anyway, I’m rambling here, and it’s too deep for someone like me to understand the full import of the might be and what if of all of it. But still, it’s fun to think about thinking about things. ๐Ÿ™‚


Written by blogicalinks

August 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Whatever

7 Responses

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  1. Why DO you blog so much? That is a mystery, too. Do you presume that everyone is reading all of this, or do you ever take a breath and realize that maybe no one is reading. Your blogs frequently start off with a punch, but like the one above, end with you apologizing for rambling and never really taking us anywhere. There is a God bigger than all of science, and you know this, but for some reason that you don’t address, you won’t allow yourself to have that or admit it. Like maybe YOU are weak for believing. THAT is the myth. You are strong when you admit there is something bigger than you, and stronger when you admit it to others, who may read your words or have the pleasure of being influenced by you positively. But you cower at the idea of people actually thinking you would humble yourself to believe in the God who made everything that you quip at in your blogs. You should write about that.

    Mary Picksworth

    August 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    • Mary,
      I don’t think it’s such a big mystery as to why people write. Humans have been scratching out symbols and stories on walls since our very existence. The bible itself was a written text meant to validate the the occurrences of events. Some people write for fame, some for money. Anne Sexton, the great confessional poet, wrote as an outlet for the demons in her head. Why we write is such a basic existential human need that it surprises me that you, as a writer, would even ask why? Are you really trying to say “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all?” If so, I answer all 1st Amendment questions the same. Then don’t read it.

      I see the world holistically, where science, the soul, and the earth fit together nicely. Cheryl, as well as all of us, are allowed to have our own life journeys and who are we to judge where the lessons come from. Before I was baptized in my church I had to confess to my minister that I still did not understand why Jesus had to die as a sacrifice for our sins. This is the very crux of being Christian. But my minister, the wise woman that she is, simply winked and said that I didn’t have to have all of the answers to be a Christian. In my church we admire those who ask questions and grapple for answers. Cheryl, like all if us are children of god, then who can argue that her thoughts are not as divinely inspired as the bible itself.


      August 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm

  2. Wow, Mary! What a trip! Who the heck are you and how do you come up with your conclusions? Or, are you tripping? LOL!

    Why does she blog so much? Helloooooo! There has been WAY too long of a break in the blogging. The blogger has been gently (and lovingly) poked and prodded and teased and nudged into resuming the blog. Many of us love reading the thoughts – and the ramblings – and the open-ended, thought provoking questions.

    It sounds like that approach makes someone uncomfortable. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Life doesn’t come in neatly tied perfect packages. Many of us enjoy pondering the messiness along with the perfectly aligned stuff. And IMO your comments about God are way off the mark too. “But you cower at the idea of people actually thinking you would humble yourelf to believe in the God that made everything…” Say what? Are you talking about THIS blog and THIS blogger? Methinks you are projecting. Maybe it would be good to take a glance in the mirror and ponder your approach to God…whether it be cowering or other.

    Back to the topic… I think memories are scattered all over the brain AND (as a friend told me many years ago) dreams are the mind’s way to get rid of junk you no longer need.

    Glad to see you back to blogging! Keep it up, PLEASE!


    August 17, 2009 at 12:40 am

    • I was not surprised to hear about false memories but I wonder if they were more perceptions, meaning real to him, rather than false. When I worked as a legal secretary and listened to witness after witness tell their story of a car crash or murder the eye witness accounts were so different it didn’t seem like they had watched the same thing at all. Then I realized that it was their perceptions that were different. I majored in Speech Communication in College as they say we study our weakness. We communicate and dream in symbols and our memories are this way as well. While we all have a general definition of a chair, we also attach individual meanings to the word chair based on our own life experiences thus we all have different perceptions and which are unique. I don’t believe dreams are pieces of junk but rather our way of processing the not conscious in the form of symbols. While we can use dream books as guides, we alone assign the specific meanings. I also believe that dreams at times are glimpses into heaven. I suppose I will have to write my own blog to ramble further!


      August 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm

  3. I miss you Cheryl. I love stuff like this. Don’t seem to run into a lot of deep thinkers these days ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World right now. I think it’s great. One of my all time favorite books is A Short History of Nearly Everything. You are the one who recommended this to me. It’ over my head, but I can mostly keep up.

    I’ll have to keep this PBS show on my radar.


    August 17, 2009 at 10:27 am

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