Your brain is what creates your reality. It receives information fed to you through your senses and forms a model of your world. It produces your perception, creates motivations and defines your personality. This biological organ is the final determinant of your loves, your wants, your desires, your sorrows, your ambition, your priorities and your entire existence. Perhaps no one sums this school of thought better than the late Francis Crick in his “Astonishing Hypothesis”.
“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” – Francis Crick (Co-discoverer of DNA and Neuroscience Researcher)
It was a significant moment when I first fully understood and believed the concept that my brain was everything I am – my very being, my reality. Little bits of the puzzle which I had been gathering through the years were all sort of fitting together. Physical changes in brain tissue resulted in different psychological subjective experiences. That cup of coffee which elevates ones mood is not doing anything mystical when elevating your mood – it is simply increasing the activation of specific brain circuitry related to uplifting ones mood and making them talk faster. Additionally, I came across a host of evidence which showed that physical, structural changes in someone’s brain had profound affects on their personality and subjective experience of the world. Some evidence was even centuries old – the classic case of Phineas Gage having a complete personality transformation and the lose of many higher human like behaviours as a result of frontal lobe trauma. Such evidence has been backed up through brain imaging analysis with certain brain areas found to be responsible for profound characteristics, such as those thought to be uniquely human, such as moral behaviour and spirituality. Previously these were believed to be part of some abstract, and potentially supernatural phenomenon.
It meant, all I had wondered and questioned about the world, human complexity, consciousness and my reality was the result not of some mystical abstract concept, but understandable physiological processes in a biological organ, taking place on an immensely vast scale.
Questions for truth, meaning and understanding took on a different meaning. Questions like: why we’re here? What is one’s purpose? Why do we care about the things we care about? What is the most important thing to do? How can we become content? These questions were to now have radically different answers.
After stumbling upon neuroscience, together with an increased understanding of evolution, I believe one can look to scientific pursuit of these and associated fields to answer these questions. We do not have to look down the paths of religion or philosophy. We have not found the needle, but neuroscience is the haystack.
This haystack includes: everything I think, everything I feel, everything I do is a result of trillions of meticulously arranged, enormously complex cells, harnessing a combined computing power we have not been able to replicate (at this time). And when we have developed our technology a little further, and understood the brain a lot more, we have the ability to replicate and improve brains and with that, solve many of man’s problems.
How extraordinary and valuable is that?