The brain

Sent in by G_D

I've always had a great interest in psychology, biopsychology and the mind and so it was with great interest when I saw the latest special issue from Time magazine: The Brain - A User's Guide

What's even better is that many of the articles are online (don't you just love the internet!). I'm sure many of the members and readers of this site will find the information, latest studies and frontiers in the study of the mind both enlightening and exciting.

One thing I've noticed and find quite exasperating on this site is the number of religious posters claiming amazing faith healings, miracles, and other superstitious garbage. Do they not realize how incredibly strong, flexible and resilient the mind is and yet how weak and susceptible it is at the same time? I guess it's often hard for people to see and understand that given they are technically "sitting in the driver's seat" .. but still, I think psychology and biopsychology should be requirements in school )

Some of the more interesting areas covered in the articles are about consciousness and reading the brain and what it is processing based on mri scans, studies in which repeated mental exercises of actual physical actions serve to reinforce and expand pathways in the brain, consciously rewiring the brain and how you think (cope with life) in order to treat mental disorders such as OCD (although I'm not quite sure how this is different from therapy which basically is changing how you think and cope), studies about the phantom limb phenomenon and how it relates to the flexibility of the brain, and the relationship between right brain-left brain noise and happiness.

Anyway, I find the mind incredibly fascinating and these days think it is the lack of understanding by the general populous about how the mind works, how and why it's evolved to react to the world the way it does, how it is wired and how incredibly flexible yet weak our minds are that leads to seeing "miracles", "ghosts" and "ufo's"

Happy reading!

If anyone is interested in pursuing more information I recommend picking up textbooks on biopsychology, abnormal psych, etc


Rogue 2 said...

"Do they not realize how incredibly strong, flexible and resilient the mind is and yet how weak and susceptible it is at the same time?"

The brain is amazing. How do you believe it came to have such intricacies?

Anonymous said...

Don't fall into the trap of becoming so arrogant that you think that you can sit above 90% of the human race that has religious belief on some level and look upon them as weaker than you are because you just read an article in a magazine. Just remember that you were once a believer yourself, and so are some of the people that have Ph. D.s in psychology and molecular biology.

Anonymous said...


At least the writer has read one more article than you. I may have missed the arrogance. Where was it?

As for those Christian psychologists and molecular biologists, they suffer of something called "comparmentalized thinking." They are so busy studying their science, that they have delegated the spiritual side of themselves to the church and its pastors.

I know that because I live with a man who is the smarest person I've never met, and he never has time to really study the faith. So when is he going to see the problems?

I am not a scientist per se, but it took a long period of unemployment for me to start seeing beyond the brain washing of religion.

Steven Bently said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Bently said...

One reason people refuse to give up their beliefs is because they have been paraded in front of people like misbehaved children, because they have been told that they have been mean (sinned) and are humilated publicly by un-due influence, to confess openly their allegiance to a belief and a myth that guarantees an eternal punishment if they do not confess nor commit their way of thinking to the myth.

They have essentually forfeited their logical mind for a belief that they have been re-assured by the written word that it is 100%pure and true fact.

Brainwashing 101

Anonymous said...

"The brain is amazing. How do you believe it came to have such intricacies?"

Why evolution of course. Along with every other trait of every other species that is a result of evolution(all of them).

eel_shepherd said...

Dante, it stands to reason that if a person weren't sitting above 90% of people in some aspect of life, they'd have nothing to feel "arrogant" (your word) about.

You're right, G_D, the brain is an amazing chunk of protein. Probably one of the reasons Sam Harris is making it his career study. The pioneering work of American psychologist Barbara Brown in biofeedback is all the more admirable when we consider that it was done well before the days of MRI scanning. She was doing experiments in which ordinary people were able to do feats usually associated with yogis, such as raising and lowering the temperature of selected areas of the body, and slowing the heart rate, and selecting for specific brain-wave frequencies, etc.

And you're right also about the brain's paradoxical nature, the way it can be so fragile and yet so powerful. Can there be any doubt about evolution when we see how consistent with the environment it can be when we make up our minds to just leave the bloody thing be, and not burden it down with a bunch of superstition?

Anonymous said...

rouge2 - via the virtually infinite tiny steps of evolution..

and i dare say that our brains are not that much more amazing than the brain of a whale, dolphin, elephant or chimpanzee.

because by using this amazing brain of ours, it's not too hard to see where adaptations from evolution do not serve us too well today. Our civilization advances faster than our brain wiring can evolve.. we see human forms and faces in random shapes and lumps (was it more important for our ancestors to quickly recognize other humans in the dark, or pigs, or inanimate objects?).. our emotional response to situations is still fight or flight, and our human drives for sex, for nourishment, for the company of others are a product of more generations than we can imagine.

The incredibly tiny little spark of our current civilization is virtually invisible on the timeline of evolution. Can you imagine the gradual change on such a scale? I can hardly.. because my life, while my 30 some odd years may seem pretty long is like a drop in an ocean on such a scale.

dante -
you assume much..
if i actually were intelligent enough to sit atop 90% of the human race.. i could probably acknowledge gods, fairies and ghosts.. that's how improbable i consider me being that smart..

in any case, you assume i was ever religious.. which i've never been.. i was raised w/o religion or superstition, and have never been interested in becoming religious. seeing what people say, do and how they cope with life in the name in of religion makes me clutch my bible, four leaf clover, horseshoe and thank my luck stars!

So no, I was never a believer. I've always grown up considering religion as a coping mechanism for life, for dealing w/ life's adversities. Christianity is no different from superstitions in any other part of the world, with the exception that it has been ritualized and institutionalized.

And please stop appealing to authority.. that's the entire problem. Just because people with PhD's in pysch or biology either choose or are indoctrinated with a certain belief does not make that belief any more correct than someone w/ a Master's or Bachelors.

Scientists with PhD's commit murders, adultery, molestation, join cults, commit suicide just like people with out a PhD in psychology. A advanced degree does not guarantee your style of coping with life, your personal issues, your choice of realities or your choices in life are any better than someone without.

There are people in our world with advance degrees who have faith in voodoo, magnetic necklaces, ufo's, scientology.. you name it, someone with a phd will subscribe to it.

Everyone has a little OCD sometimes, every one may suffer anxiety attacks, stress and other psychological disorders.

Seen the movie "A Beautiful Mind"? Anyone can be afflicted by a mental disorder, from slight to severe.. and when you are on the inside, it is very hard to see yourself from "outside" your reality.

All I'm saying is your mind is the key.. and the better you understand your own brain, how your brain works, why it works the way it does, what drives/unconscious responses are due to what aspects of our evolution, etc, etc... the better you can understand yourself, solve your problems and deal with how your mind deals with the world.

I mean, come on, how do you expect to know why you do what you do, if you refuse to learn how your "hardware" ticks?

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure where the "arrogance" part comes in... i make the post in order to share some fascinating reading about the latest research with everyone

and the whole point is to inspire people to further study the latest research and findings if they are interested in this stuff! the articles are rather cursory in what they cover and is not much more in depth than watching sound bites on tv.

if you believe that learning and expanding your knowledge will make you more arrogant, then that's your loss. seriously.

Anonymous said...

The reason that the brain readily accepts religions as being true is because it is born un-programmed with religious dogmas and superstitions.

The young developing brain slowly realizes it must mimic what it hears in order to convey to other humans it's desires and it's needs, the brain soon associates those noises it hears is the way to communicate what it wants.

By the time a child reaches six years old, a child can speak his or her native language effectively enough to communicate it's every want and desire by seeing the reaction and attention it gets by barking it's commands, the brain assumes that everything it hears must be true or based upon truth, especially by the time of ten years old, the preteen sees and hears adults mimicking and repeating Bible passages and praying, the brain also associates this as an act of pure realization the brain naturally assumes that these religious rituals have surely been thoroughly investigated and weighed by adults, not knowing that the adults are mimicking what their developing brain assumed to be true while their brain was also at a developing age.

This is the cycle of culture being repeated and instilled by every developing brain.

The brain is now stunted and not open to accept different views and opinions, because if it's good enough for mommy and other mature adults, then it must surely be true, therefore there's no reason to investigate the preponderance of things any further, so the brain's only defensive reaction is to get upset or very mad.

This reaction is what causes hatred and separation of different cultures and beliefs.

mike said...

I have to add my comment on the "healing" thing. I was crippled when I was 19 years old by a drunk driver. Of course being a Christian I went to many so called healing ministries, evangelist, and my church officails, who all believed in healing. The one thing that I noticed in all these healing services is that the only people who seam to be "healed" are the ones with very basic achs and pains. There are wild claims about people in wheelchairs walking, but they were just people who let their health go, overweight, old, or lazy or just did not want to walk much. No one with a true spinal chord injury was ever healed. Also, I have seen poor young children with cereberal palsey and other horrible conditions go home with nothing while people were claiming to be healed of things you could not see, such as ear aches, back aches and other minor problems. The point being. I challenge anyone who claims that such miraculus healings occured to show documented proof. I bet you will find that no one, NO ONE, with a true medical condition like paralysis etc has ever been healed. Some claim that cancer has been healed, but we know of many documented cases of spontaneous remissions. Why is it that all these people growing legs, raising the dead, and other outlandish claims always happen in Africa? Chrisitians claim that it is because there is more "faith" there. Hogwash, if you believe that dead people can be raised, then why not here in America? Why would the dead man need faith? He cant have faith he is dead! Excuses, excuses.

Cousin Ricky said...

mike wrote:
Why is it that all these people growing legs, raising the dead, and other outlandish claims always happen in Africa? Chrisitians claim that it is because there is more "faith" there. Hogwash, if you believe that dead people can be raised, then why not here in America?

Actually, the Xians are probably right, although not in the sense that they think. It is the stronger faith--that is to say, more superstition and gullibility--that leads not to healings, but to tales of healings. Anecdotes i've read from Nigeria paint a picture of a Xian populace that is as superstitious as Europeans of the dark ages, complete with paranoia of evil spirits and charges of witchcraft. Weak American faith doesn't go beyond bogus spinal chord healings; but African industrial strength gullibility can easily swallow fictional resurrections and imaginary regrown limbs.


"The human brain did not evolve to accurately represent the world around us; it evolved to enhance the survival of its genes."
--Victor S. Johnston

LadySidhe said...

Check this book out; you'll probably like it:

Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
Andrew Newberg, MD, Eugene D'Aquill, MD PhD, and Vince Rause.

Excellent book, and written for the layman.

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