Friday, March 14, 2008

the fascinating brain of us

Last two years of my degree were spent on foundation studies for neuroscience. I haven't focused on neuroscience, rather did an overview of human physiology, anatomy and psychology. This year my focus will be human brain, in terms of anatomy, physiology and psychology.

Its one week to the semester, the first week went fine (don't they always?). I think I am going to love my subjects this semester (well, just thinking. wait till I reach week 5...). I am doing this degree because human brain, its psychology and physiology fascinates me so much. There are generally a lot of interesting facts that I learn everyday. I come home and shower them on my poor family members, during dinner. Baba is always a keen listener but the others... (sigh). Ask them a minute later, they won't be able to recall a thing. So, I decided to write down some interesting facts I learn every week. Initially I get immensely fascinated by any cool facts. Once they get old, I take them for granted and completely forget they used to enthral me much once upon a time! So, writing down the facts and my thoughts on them while they are still fresh and fantastic could provide a source of entertainment for future. I am sure I will find all these very silly at the end of the semester, many of my contemplation will be proved wrong. That would be fun to read :).

I think this fact should come first--our brain changes every time we learn something new.

It can be a structural change, so a new connection can be formed, others disconnected, or it could be a functional change--some neuron in the brain learn to act differently.

I found this quite baffling. So for every single name, face, hurt, love, passion, skill, hatred, anger that I learnt... my brain actually got changed! So, our brain literally gets 'scarred' from bitter experience! The hole that unrequited love leaves us feeling are resulting from some physical connections burnt in our brain! There is a hadith which says for every sin, the heart is marked with a black scar. We can pray for forgiveness and the marks are eventually washed away by the mercy of God. What happens then? Do the connections get weakened? They certainly don't get wiped up because we still have memory of the sin. Lost innocence it is, marked right on your brain! Dwell on that, the connections regenerate and eventually get stronger! Bugger! That's why they ask you not to delve onto bad memories much!

Fact number two: Female brains are physically smaller than male brains!

It is not simply because females are generally shorter and smaller, our brains are proportionally smaller than male brains! There are fewer grey matter (neurons and glia cells) in female brains . My god, I do not know what exactly does that mean! But the implication can be, males are capable of holding much more information in their brain plus processing them with greater efficiency. I do not know! But the good news for now is, that's not all. Male brains have fewer left brain-right brain correspondence, that is, female brains have more connections between the two hemispheres, left brain and right brain. No wonder females are multi tasked and way better at remembering relevant info while fighting!

Fact number three: Quoting Darwin: "The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder"... He could not explain how eyes could have evolved. To this day there isn't any single theory the evolutionists agree upon in terms of the evolution of eyes. The eyes of all different species can not seem to have evolved from a single point, evolution of eyes do not fit in the picture of evolution theory!

Eyes, yes, I will learn about eyes!

More facts: We have two areas on the left side of the brain, dedicated for speech. One of them is for understanding speech and producing coherent speech that every body else understands. The other is for controlling our tongue, larynx and lips in certain ways that allows us to produce speech. So all the people who loose their ability to speak after having a stroke loose this part of the brain--the part for movement of speech related organs. Even though they cannot speak a word and stare with a painful, mute look, they have complete awareness of their inability. they understand everything that goes around them. That must be excruciating!
The other type of inability of formation of speech is less common, that is the loss of the brain part that helps us understand speech, what people say and what we say. If people loose this part of the brain then they speak gibberish. They speak in ga ga language, like a six months old infant. They think they are making perfect sense, but to us they will seem to be speaking in a foreign language. Its like falling on a different planet all of a sudden!

One more fact: Till yesterday human brains looked like a messy mass of squiggly lines to me. I thought human brains are like guts. There is a lot of mass so they get folded, without any particular direction, reason or shape. But apparently, the grooves are common amongst all of our brains! There will be minor differences, but we generally have similar pattern in the brain! And each of those bumps are responsible for a massive task like vision or smell.

I learnt more but I think I should stop now. Or else I will never feel like reading these facts again, even for a laugh.


Emu said...

my qualitative lecturer has scary eyes. He used to be called Dr. Who some years ago.

"Even though they cannot speak a word and stare with a painful, mute look, they have complete awareness of their inability. they understand everything that goes around them. That must be excruciating!" - like "1 liter of tears". It was based on the true story of a girl who has spinocerebellar ataxia. The difference here is that all of this girl's motor functions were slowly dying (=ataxia).

And lastly - 'mmm, marinated brain'

Emu said...

u know, i'd be ready to swear that i don't have as many connections between my left and right hemisphere as women are supposed to. and i think the right side of my brain is not very active. i have very little sense of creativity. can't say anything about my left hemisphere, though i have serious doubts about that too.

i need a hobby.