THE STUDY OF THE BRAIN

The brain.  It’s the complex organ which is the hub from which our body and thoughts work. 

A couple of movies have set forth an intriguing look at how drugs could possibly open the mind, tearing down the barriers that limit.  Bradley Cooper stars in the 2011 movie, Limitless, in which everything is seemingly going wrong in his average life.  He begins to use a street drug that ultimately opens his world and opens his mind to making himself great.  Ultimately, he no longer needs the drug, as the neurons in his brain create new connections, allowing his brain to work at the more accelerated level on its own

A more recent example is the 2014 movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson.  When a new synthetic street drug is inadvertently released in her body, at a much higher level than typical, her mental and physical capabilities increase exponentially and in the end they become limitless.  She discusses “the nature of time and life and how people’s humanity distorts their perceptions.”  At the conclusion of the movie, she is joined with a supercomputer to capture her knowledge, her body disintegrates (no longer bound by physical limitations) and she assimilates into the atmosphere and the police captain, Pierre Del Rio, receives a text message stating,”I AM EVERYWHERE.”

There are many theories about reality and consciousness – what is ACTUALLY real vs what our brain perceives?

Jason Silva is the host of a show on the National Geographic station that delves into brain perception.  “Brain Games is kind of a pop-science reality series that uses interactive experiences — cognitiveoptical illusions and participatory games — to teach people about their brains. The games function as devices that highlight the shortcomings in how we perceive reality. Every time you play along as you watch, you’re experiencing these holes, these lapses in your perception.

Most people take their perceptions of reality for granted. People think they have some kind of tangible experience of the world. But the reality is that they don’t. So essentially the show uses these games to teach that to people.”

Essentially, the thing holding us back is ourselves.

We have certain perceptions in our own lives and that is our point of reference. 

How much do we actually know about the brain?  In reality, not much.  There are new imaging techniques that allow scientists to access much more detailed images and data from the brain.  MRI scans can provide information and have provided some insight into children’s brain, with much tissue growth from ages 3-15.  A very fast growth rate happens between ages 3-6 and another growth spurt from ages 11-15, with the drastic drop-off in the early teen years.  Additional information on these studies here. 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/work/how.html

Mapping and understanding the brain is key in behavioral, psychological, and physical deviations in the body.  The brain is very complicated and also very difficult to study utilizing experiments.

The Brain Initiative, taking place at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) is a “Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.”  This is a national initiative called for by President Obama, led by the NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others as well as partnering with those in the private sector.  Neurons and the complex neuron networks are being studied – this circuitry is the basis at which thought, movement, and behavior stem.  Understanding that relationship and the way in which it works is key in understanding the healthy brain, and in turn, understanding what goes wrong when disease occurs.  $46 million was allocated for this project in FY 2014 and continues to be a collaborative effort by many national agencies.

The United States is not the only world entity interesting in forging ahead in the study of the human brain.  In January 2013, the European Commission pledged 500 million euros toward unlocking the secrets of the brain (or approximately $6.7M).  This is expected to reach approximately $1.4 billion over the next ten years.   

 

 

There are many things we simply do not know about the brain.

However, these global partnerships will continue to be a catalyst in uncovering the secrets locked in the brain.