Sunday, March 30, 2014

Phreniology: Theory of the Mind-Brain Interaction

I've had an idea that the body is a machine, the brain is the computer that controls it and runs subprograms, and the mind is the "user" component that "operates" the brain-body system to get the living human being to perform the actions desired by the operator. As an allegory for how our bodies, corporeal and incorporeal, actually work together. I was interested when I picked up a magazine from the leisure-reading rack at the YMCA and read this:

Credit for the information: National Geographic Magazine, February 2014 edition.
"Caltech and UCLA scientists use pictures of celebrities to study how the brain processes what the eyes see. In 2005 they found an individual nerve cell that fired only when subjects were shown pictures of Jennifer Aniston. Another neuron responded only to pictures of Halle Berry—even when she was masked as Catwoman. Follow-up studies suggest that relatively few neurons are involved in representing any given person, place, or concept, making the brain staggeringly efficient at storing information."
I fired off a text to my college friends telling them what I thought:
This is interesting, and seems to confirm my phreniology theory (+10pts for using big words!) that the brain is not the thing that stores memories--the mind(the spirit/soul) is--it is merely the biological machine that allows our complete human form to have access to our spiritual-identity-associated-memories for the purpose of conscious, mind-and-brain thought processing of these memories. How's that sound?
If the brain itself doesn't store memories, then the one-neuron recognition finding would be consistent with this: the memories associated with identifying and recognizing Jennifer Aniston as a singular individual need only be accessed by a single neuron "tagged" as the gateway for the brain to interact with the mind's memories. The rest of the brain's activity, beyond this one neuron, makes up the biological "processing" of this connection, that allows you to consciously realize that you're looking at Jennifer Aniston.
Side thought: In other words, every individual you can recognize is represented by one neuron. So, it seems likely, is any given place, any given major event in your past experience, and any given major concept that you understand or believe in. They are like locked gates that your brain holds the key to; it opens each gate when prompted, and proceeds to open up related thoughts through that particular memory-jogging avenue. (Your mind-brain therefore has an almost infinite capacity for remembering things, since you have hundred billions of neurons. It would seem necessary, if we're going to live forever, and remember a near infinite amount of things, wouldn't it?) Have you ever found that, for example when remembering song lyrics, you can only remember some things if you first "go through" the associated stored memories that come before it, in a sequence? I've heard the old poets of old held a remarkable amount of history in oral tradition, and perhaps this is how.
This makes further sense when it comes to mentally impaired or brain-damaged individuals. Their brain-mind connection is hampered because the brain is damaged. The brain therefore can't interact with the mind properly, and conscious thought is hamstrung and takes place less efficiently. Even more interestingly, this can explain why seemingly smart people can make such mind-numbingly (points for relevant adjective!) idiotic decisions and go from reasonable starting points to impossibly bizarre and false conclusions. In this case, their brain isn't damaged, but their mind is. The Bible says that those who rebel against God and do not have the Holy Spirit in them have a 'natural mind' and a 'seared conscience.' (1 Timothy 4:2, 1 Corinthians 2:14) My understanding of this is that unbelief literally makes you unintelligent, and perhaps that's because the mind fails to interact with the brain properly--it's the reverse of the previously discussed circumstance, except in this case it's your fault for it. Romans 1:21-22 further buttresses this notion, that prolonged and obstinate refusal to repent before God will literally make people stupid. The smart choice, in more than one way, it would seem, is to submit in faith to Christ.

If my phreniology theory is right, then an interesting conclusion results: you don't actually lose your memories. You may forget them, but you've merely lost access to them. You'll be able to access them once more in the eternal state, when your whole human form--mind and body--is repaired to full capacity. Unless, that is, you never submit your carnal mind to Christ.

~ Rak Chazak

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