ANATOMY OF BRAIN

Anatomy of Brain: –

It is hard for most of us to imagine what it would be like to have one of our most taken-for-granted faculties suddenly no longer available to us, like the ability to respond emotionally to our visual experience. Indeed, what is most intriguing about these stories is the way in which they challenge one of our most fundamental intuitions—our sense that the self is a single, unified whole. Repeated throughout the neurology literature are cases in which damage to a specific part of the brain leads to the loss of some specific aspect of our ability to perceive and respond to the world. Damage one part of my brain and I’ll lose the ability to learn any new facts. Damage another part and I’ll be unable to recognize faces. Damage another area and my experience of the world will remain intact, but I’ll be unable to find the words I need to speak clearly about it. Damage still another part and I’ll lose the ability to pay attention to half of my visual field, but I will be convinced that the half I’m seeing is the whole picture. As a result, in the morning, I’ll only shave half of my face. Taken together, the data from neurology suggest that despite our brain’s ability to organize our experience into a seamless unity, we are, in fact, made up of many parts, the loss of any of which can have dramatic effects on the whole.

However ignorant we may be of brain science, most of us are familiar by now with the idea that our brain has two hemispheres, a left one and a right one, each responsible for very different aspects of our behavior. Our dominant left brain, we are told, is more analytical; our right brain more emotional, creative, and intuitive. Although much of the popular psychology literature on the right brain–left brain distinction has been, in the eyes of neuroscience, exceedingly simplistic and inaccurate, the basic fact—known in the field as “hemispheric specialization”—is well established. In a normal brain, these two hemispheres communicate with one another through a large band of nervous tissue known as the corpus callosum (larger in women than in men, incidentally, accounting for their superior ability to multitask, among other things). But what would happen if the connection between these two halves of the brain was severed, leaving us, in effect, with two brains in our head? Would we end up with two different selves? Over the past few decades, a group of neuroscientists have had the chance to find out.

Epilepsy comes in many forms, some mild and some severe. In its worst manifestations, it brings with it nearly constant seizures that make life almost impossible for the patient. In an attempt to control these severe cases, in the 1960s neurosurgeons began cutting the corpus callosum to prevent the seizures from spreading from one side of the brain to the other. The procedure was re- markably successful, and to the relief of the doctors who pioneered the treatment, patients generally recovered well and were able to live relatively normal lives. But in these “split-brain” patients, psychobiologist Roger Sperry soon recognized a rare opportunity to study the differences between the two hemispheres in a way that had never been possible before. Over the decades that followed, he pioneered a series of studies that ultimately earned him a Nobel Prize. Most of these split-brain studies focused on illuminating the functional differences between the two hemispheres, but along the way, Sperry and his colleagues began to realize that there were implications to what they were seeing that went far beyond the scope of their initial questions.

One of the most commonly known facts about hemispheric specialization is that the right brain controls the left side of the body and the leftbrain controls the right side. Where visual input is concerned, the same rule applies. The left half of the visual field (of each eye) is routed to the right brain and vice versa. Knowing this, researchers realized that by presenting information quickly to only one side of the subject’s visual field, they could ensure that the information only reached one side of the subject’s brain. This technique provided the cornerstone of their research.

Employing this method, researchers had learned early on that the dominant left brain, with its ability to reason and use language, is the home of what we usually think of as the conscious mind. For instance, when asked to report on information that had been presented to their left-brain alone, subjects could speak about it quite normally. When information had been presented only topage274image55672192the right brain, by contrast, subjects seemed unaware of it. As the research progressed, however, the picture grew more complex. For instance, when the right brain was shown an image of a spoon, the subject’s left hand (which is controlled by the right brain) could successfully identify an actual spoon from among an assortment of objects, even though the subject claimed to have no conscious knowledge of having seen it. Despite its inability to express itself, the right brain nonetheless seemed to have a will and mind of its own. Eager to test this, Scottish neuroscientist Donald MacKay devised a twenty-ques- tions-type guessing game and successfully taught each of the two halves of a patient’s brain to play it—first against him and then against the other half. But this image of the two halves of one brain competing with one another soon moved from the experimental to the macabre, as split-brain patients began to develop the bizarre malady known as “alien-hand syndrome.”

The idea that splitting the brain amounts to nothing less than splitting the self is a challenging one with enormous implications for our understanding of the brain’s role in creating consciousness and even individuality. Therefore, it is no surprise that it has remained a controversial finding, even among scientists. But for the man who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in this area, the experience of working with split-brain patients for many years all pointed in one direction. “Everything we have seen indicates that the surgery has left these people with two separate minds,” Sperry wrote. “That is, two separate spheres of consciousness.”

Cerebral Cortex (cerebrum): –

This is the most highly evolved part of our brain. The furrowed, quarter inch thick slab of gray matter that covers the surface of the brain is divided in two hemispheres and four lobes. Creativity generally resides in the right hemisphere, analytic ability in the left. Frontal Lobe – Area of brain just behind eyes, which controls intellectual functioning, including thought process, meaning and behavior. Temporal Lobe – Located on lower sides of the brain, the temporal lobes are responsible for smell, taste, hearing and visual associations. Parietal Lobe – Upper portion of the brain, just under top of skull. The parietal lobes are responsible for higher sensory and language functions. Occipital Lobe – located in the rear area of brain, the occipital lobes receive the visual information from the eyes.

COULD THE BRAIN IN FACT BE THE SOUL

Could the brain in fact be the soul?

Who had determined from an early age to disprove the existence of God and the Soul, made a passionate call for neuroscience to begin employing its growing scientific arsenal to demonstrate the material basis of consciousness?

Philosophers have been arguing about over the past few centuries. Ever since René Descartes gave birth to dualism by asserting the separation of Mind and Body, the big issue in the philosophy of mind has been figuring out how these two different substances—the mental and the physical—could interact with one another. On one hand, how could an objective, physical brain give rise to subjective, mental events? And on the other hand, how could those subjective, mental events—presumably not governed by physical laws—impact the objec- tive, physical world?page271image32591808

Through the use of brain imaging techniques, it allows them to compare snap- shots of the brain when a given perception is conscious and when it is not conscious. This, they hope, will ultimately give them some clues to understanding how neuronal activity correlates with consciousness. No matter how clear a snapshot we can get of what type of neuronal activity correlates with which sorts of conscious perceptions, we will still be no closer to understanding how the brain could possibly produce something like conscious experience itself.

Different Theories: –

The first thinker on record to suggest a link between mind and brain was the Pythagorean Alcmaeon of Croton, writing in the fifth century BC. Prior to that, across cultures, it was widely held that the Mind, or Soul, was located in the heart. The priests of ancient Egypt, for example, when preparing the body of the deceased for the afterlife, would pull out the brain, piece by piece through the nose, but would leave the heart intact, believing it to be the center of a person’s Being and Intelligence. In most ancient cultures, the idea of dissecting a cadaver was taboo, so with no knowledge of the nervous system, it was only natural to conclude that the accelerated heartbeat that accompanied an excited mind was a clear indication of the bodily location of mental life. Even such great thinkers as Aristotle subscribed to this view. But, rigorous biologist that he was, Greece’s greatest polymath was certain that the brain must serve some function. Noticing that it was cool to the touch, he concluded that it refrigerated the blood—a conclusion that also allowed him to account for the inordinately large brains of humans. Because of our unusual intelligence, he argued, our hearts produced more heat and, thus, required a larger cooling system.

Alcmaeon’s brain-centered theory, however, did manage to persuade the likes of Hippocrates and Plato to abandon the prevailing “cardiovascular theory,” and despite Aristotle’s resistance to the idea, it was picked up by physicians during the early Roman period who broke the taboo against dissecting cadavers and discovered the nervous system branching out from the skull and spine. Although this view gradually took hold, and has remained dominant ever since, it was still being disputed as late as the seventeenth century, when philosopher Henry More wrote, “This lax pith or marrow in man’s head shows no more capacity for thought than a cake of suet or a bowl of curds.” It is also worth noting that the model of the brain that prevailed through most of the second millennium was very different from the model we subscribe to today.page272image33457664

Whereas we now see a vast, complex electrochemical network of some hundred billion neurons, these early anatomists were convinced that the Mind, or Soul, was a kind of etheric presence that lived in large “ventricles” or chambers in the brain, communicating its commands to the rest of the body through “vital spirits” that flowed through the nervous system’s minute pathways.

Indeed, it has been this move away from a spirit-based view of the brain’s workings toward a purely biological one that has led to the idea, so unpopular with the religiously inclined, that the mind, or soul, is ultimately reducible to brain activity.

ALL IS IN YOUR HEAD

ALL IS IN YOUR HEAD: –

Being an engineer all my life, I have always been interested in matters of the science, and I’ve always had a somewhat conflicted relationship to religion. On the one hand, for anyone interested in humanity’s further evolution, it’s hard not to be excited by the latest findings of a discipline that, in a single 20th century, has managed to cure polio, crack the genetic code, send a probe to Saturn’s largest moon, and invent the Internet. But on the other hand, there is something about science’s tendency to reduce even life’s greatest mysteries to the movements of matter alone that has always left me a little chilled. In the face of this unfolding world of meaning, purpose, and mystery, the notion that science held the keys to ultimate truth began to seem increasingly hard to accept. One result of this split personality is that whenever I’m confronted with the battle between science and religion, I always find it hard to take sides and end up in a sort of internal battle of my own.

The thriving field of neuroscience promises to fill that void and then some. Employing powerful new methods for studying the intimate workings of the brain, the pioneers of this increasingly self-assured discipline aspire to demonstrate once and for all that the mind, emotions, and even consciousness itself are entirely generated by the three-pound lump of gray matter in our skulls. For a generation of researchers in this field, the prime directive is to prove what Nobel laureate Francis Crick, who turned to neuroscience after co-discovering the DNA helix, called “the astonishing hypothesis”:

That “you, your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and freewill are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. You are nothing but a pack of neurons.”

Despite the insistence of neuroscientists that our brains are the sole source of our experience and behavior, there are very strong reasons why most of us don’t want to believe that this is the case. For most of us with religious or spiritual inclinations, accepting such a premise would eradicate, in one fell swoop, one of our most basic convictions—the belief in an immaterial SOUL or (if we’re Buddhists) “mind essence” that transcends the physical body. Even for those of us who do not count themselves among the religious people, the notion that we are entirely reducible to brain stuff still seems to take away something essential—our humanity, our dignity, our sense of meaning.

There is something about the experience of consciousness itself, some kind of mystery inherent in the fact that we are conscious at all, that seems irreducible to the mere firing of our neurons. As convinced as the neuroscientists are of their case, I can’t help feeling there must be more to the story.

I would have to dive into the unknown waters of brain science and find out for myself what the fuss is all about. What does it actually mean to say that our brains are the sole source of our experience? What evidence is there to prove it? And assuming it was true, would that mean that all of our spirituality is a trick?

SELF-TRANSFORMATION

Self-Transformation: –

Mere intellectual understanding is not enough. It is not by leaving the doctor’s prescription by the bedside or learning it by heart that we are cured. We must integrate what we have learned so that our understanding becomes intimately bound up with our mind’s flow. Then it ceases to be theory and becomes self- transformation.

I have been lucky enough so far to have had enough to eat and wear and a roof over my head. I consider my possessions to be tools, and there is not one I consider to be indispensable. Without a laptop I might stop writing, and without a camera I might stop sharing pictures, but it would in no way impair the quality of every moment of my life.

Inside Out:

There is essentially only one way in which you can bring about self-transformation – that’s if you want to – but you will not think you need to if you are still taking your happiness from outside yourself, and still managing to tolerate the periods of unhappiness which result. As soon as your happiness is dependent on anything outside, you make yourself a slave to a condition, substance or perhaps a person. A slave is not free. And happiness is impossible if you are not free. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why our happiness fluctuates. Real happiness does not go up and down. Real freedom means that your happiness comes from inside out. That will require detachment and renunciation, not least from the illusions and conditioning of society which would have you believe happiness can be acquired from outside in. Can you see it? Inside out, not outside in!

Do Now:

Procrastination is not only the thief of time; it is the creator of subtle inner tension. You know you are cheating yourself. There are three secrets to overcoming procrastination.

1. Don’t wait till you feel like doing it – the feeling will come only when you start doing it
2. List all the things you have to do and then prioritize the list.
3. Create a vision of the result and be motivated by the vision of the out- come, not the thought of the process.

And the options to those ideas?
1. Ask for help.
2. Completely forget about it, you don’t have to do anything!
3. If there is anything you can learn from the process then see it is action learning.

GIVE:

Give happiness and you will receive happiness.
Give peace and you will feel peaceful.
Give sorrow and you will get sorrow in return.
Create thoughts and words that give only peace and happiness. The world is filled with worry and sorrow. Do something different.

HOW TO ACHIEVE HAPPINESS 03

Time of Happiness: –

At the time of happiness, one gets completely involved in an activity for its own sake. There is a sense of transcending the Ego and Time. Every action, movement, thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you are using your skills to the utmost.

Consider walking just for the pleasure of walking, freely and firmly, without hurrying. We are present in every step. When we wish to speak, we stop walking and lend all our attention to the person, to speaking and to listening. Stop, look around, and see how wonderful life is: the trees, the white clouds, and the infinite sky. Listen to the birds, delight in the light breeze. Let us walk as free people and feel our steps growing lighter as we walk. Let us appreciate every step we take.

As satisfying as it may be to cultivate the experience of flow, it is still only a tool. If it is to make any long-term improvement in our quality of life it must be filled with human qualities, such as altruism and wisdom. The value of the flow depends on the motivation coloring the mind. It can be negative in case of the burglar, neutral of mundane activity- ironing clothes say – or positive when we are involved in a rescue operation or meditating on compassion. That experience is a source of inner peace and openness to the world and others.

Ethics of happiness: –

It is not possible to live happily if one does not live beautiful, righteous, and wise life; or to lead a beautiful, righteous and wise life if one is not happy. The goal of Buddhist ethics is to free all beings, including one-self, from momen- tary and long-term suffering and to develop the ability to help others to do so. In order to accomplish this we must equitably balance our own aspirations for well being that of others. It is not a question of defining good or evil absolutely, but of remaining alert to the happiness and suffering we cause by our deeds, our words, and our thoughts. Thus the very core of ethics is our state of mind, not the form our actions take. If we relied solely on a deed’s outward manifestation, it would be impossible to distinguish, for instance, between a white lie and a malicious one. If the killer asks you where the person he is chasing is hiding, that is obviously not the moment to tell the truth. The same holds true for an aggressive action. When a mother roughly shoves her child across the street to prevent the child from being hit by a car, the act is violent only in appearance; she has saved the child’s life. Conversely if some one approaches you with a big smile and showers you with compliments only to rip you off, his conduct is non violent in appearance, but his intentions are actually malevolent.

Evil is not a demonic power external to ourselves, and good is not absolute principle independent of us. Everything occurs in our minds. Love and compassion are reflections of the true nature of all living beings – what we have called as basic goodness. Evil is a deviation from this basic goodness, which can be remedied.

Buddhism says that a person’s goodness remains intact deep within even when it is horribly marred at the surface. This is not about naively ignoring the extent to which that good nature can be buried beneath hatred, greed and cruelty; rather it is about understanding that the mere fact of its existence always allows for its potential reemergence.