The Magnificent Human Brain

July 27, 2012 by  
Filed under On Life and Living

Of all the wonders in all the world, perhaps the greatest wonder of all lies right between your ears.

If one were to do a thorough investigation of the brain, the only conclusion would be that it is a miracle.  If all living things are made up of cells, then how have some of these cells learned to create thoughts?  Cells are made from physical matter and yet they can control mental thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Without the brain the body would not think, feel, or remember.  If cells had never developed these abilities, then the entire concept of LIFE would cease to exist.

“Of all the wonders in all the world, perhaps the greatest wonder of all lies right between your ears.” [Click to Tweet]

The Brain Controls What We’re All Doing

Right now I am typing out my ideas.  As I continue, my mind conjures up thoughts in the form of words.  These words have no tangible physical characteristics… they are simply figments of my imagination.  My brain considers the meaning(s) of each of these words.  It then makes judgements about the words themselves and the way they are organized.  When I find words that my mind deems acceptable, it then instructs my hands to type.

In the act of typing, the brain sends instructs muscles work together to move the fingers onto the correct keys.  There is no need to independently think about the specific movement of individual muscles.  Repetition has allowed my brain to orchestrate these complex movements by combining the movements of each individual muscle.

It is hard to wrap one’s mind around the fact that mental thoughts can be transmitted through physical cells.  The birth of a thought is an idea that may be beyond our ability to explain.  Thoughts have no length, width, or mass.  Yet somehow the neurons in the brain create and transmit them.  Without thoughts we would not be able to move, think, or feel.


The Operation of the Brain

Scientists have discovered that the human brain consists of approximately 100 billion neurons.  Each of these neurons is interconnected with other neurons all over the brain.  Each neuron is estimated to be a part of approximately 10,000 independent neurological connections in the brain.

Another word for neuron is “nerve cell.”  Nerve cells carry information throughout the brain and transfer it back and forth from the body.  Consider the act of touching a hot stove.  Nerve cells in the hand feel the stove and send the message to the brain.  The brain analyzes the information and determines that the stove is hot.  Then it immediately directs the muscles in the arm and hand to immediately pull back.  It takes only a fraction of a second to receive, interpret, and transmit all this information.

If it weren’t for the brain, the body would not be able to adjust to surroundings.  While it may seem like eyes see, ears hear, and nose smells, that is not really the case.  Each of these senses is interpreted inside the brain.   Ears, eyes, and nose function as a mechanisms to transmit sensory information.  It is the brain that actually interprets this information.


The Miracle of Neuroplasticity

The neurons in the brain are incredibly interconnected.  Thoughts are originated and transmitted using neurological connections.  When you want to perform a brand new action, the brain does its best to use pathways that complete the task efficiently.  Repeated practice makes the task easier.  Neurons can actually band together and develop brand new connections in order to function more efficiently.  After thousands of repetitions, the new pathway becomes so comfortable with the task that it seems automated.

The brain understands the constraints that are put on it.  Information travels only as fast as its weakest link, and a person’s brain must live within the ability of the rest of the body.  As the body learns to do more, the brain can compensate by making new connections.  For example, physical training that increases speed or endurance can place demands on the brain that result in brand new neurological connections.

The billions of neurons and the trillions of neurological connections in the brain enable it to do amazing things.  Some people have developed incredible memory, while others have learned to control their muscles with pinpoint accuracy.

For patients who have suffered stroke or other injury, neuroplasticity is hope.  A stroke victim whose hand has lost the ability to grab objects is able to relearn these skills through repeated practice.  The practice doesn’t only benefit the hand, it also benefits the brain.  Neurons interpret the movements of the hand and can make brand new connections in the brain.  While these connections may result in the ability to clench and grab, the actual act of grabbing may look different than it did before the stroke.  The new connections that control these actions have actually been created from scratch.


The Brain is the Key to Injury Rehab

The fact that the brain can think and learn is a miracle.  The fact that physical cells (neurons) can interpret mental thoughts and communicate mental messages is quite a phenomenon.  We often take for granted the fact that we can sense, think, and move.  In reality, none of these would ever happen without the brain.

When we think of injury rehabilitation, we often think of working out the affected body part so that it gains strength and control.  In reality, a big part of rehab takes place in the mind.  The most important factor that goes into life improvement is always the human brain.  If the brain can get used to new movement and function, the patient can recover.

One can relearn how to talk, walk, and grab through repeated practice.  While it may seem like the focus is on strengthening the muscles, real breakthroughs occur when the brain is challenged.  Repeating the same challenges presents the brain with a need.  The best outcome is when the brain is able to meet that need by manufacturing brand new connections.  It is then that the brain can truly be described as “magnificent.”


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