Brain Scans and Phrenology: The Continued Search for a Reductionist View of the Human Brain
Will mapping the mind lead us to any usable data from which to build solutions for the numerous maladies affecting human lives? Looking at the current progress I would have to say doubtful. There must be some aspect of function that is still missing from the equation. There is undoubtedly valuable information gathered from this research, but we still need a broader scope of data to make it pertinent.
Rita Carter, in her book, Mapping the Mind, does not hesitate to point out that the material contained within is debatable. Some studies lack verification and some were gathered by a statistically insignificant number of subjects. One quote from her introduction states, “Others think this reductionist approach will never fully explain why we feel and behave as we do, let alone yield the secrets of the brains most extraordinary product – consciousness” (Carter, 1998).
Franz Gall, the father of phrenology, examined the bumps and protuberances of the human skull to reveal character and mental capacity. Today we use images created from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computerized Tomography (CT), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Positron Emission Topography (PET), Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS), Electroencephalography (EEG), and Magneto encephalography (MEG) to view energy emissions from brain activity. Some find this information inconclusive. One analogy that might illuminate some of the controversy over the data obtained would be the Ham Radio. When building such a radio, you must first buy the crystals needed to broadcast and receive signals. After they are put in place and each has a specific location in the circuitry, they will glow and emit light when being activated; however the energy causing the light is coming from an external source. If this is the case in the human brain, then just mapping the reactions will not provide the solutions we are looking for.
The reason ‘scientists are oddly reticent about the potential uses of their work’ is fairly self-evident. Once this research reaches fruition, will we be able to choose from a cafeteria of mental or perceptive enhancements? Will the government wish to maintain control and use the new technologies to enhance or correct individuals whom they feel are appropriate? Who will have the power to decide which disorders qualify to have access to these curative measures? All of these potentials raise many questions and will create many heated debates. We may only hope that the obvious potential for improving human brain disorders will override the misuse opportunities that will appear.
One area researchers must stay fully aware of is the historical habit of taking partial findings and sensationalizing them with the objective of finding financial support for their personal research. By promoting our early findings as having reasonable truths and values, mistakes happen, like, twenty thousand plus full frontal lobotomies in the 1940s, thalidomide for morning sickness, asbestos for insulation, radiation treatments for children with inflamed thymus glands, and numerous fantastic weight loss medications. Our history is full of misguided scientific methodology and researchers must stay diligent to keep more of the same from occurring.
The results from the early mind mapping studies are definitely thought provoking. Who among us would not like to stimulate the areas of the brain responsible for Eidetic/ photographic memory? What about turning on the areas of the brain responsible for the positive attributes of the idiot savants. If you do not think these potentials are exciting, check out the hits and numerous links found today on this website relating to neuroscientist, Michael Persinger’s, research: http://www.innerworlds.50megs.com .
Dr. Persinger found in his research something he labeled as the ‘God spot’ in the brain structure. Eight years later the masses are even more excited about his discovery, which they see as a way to open the door to new spiritual awareness. All you have to do is slap on the 8-coil Shakti, start alternating the magnetic stimulation, and God will step up and say, “Hello”. Anyone can see how this might find popular appeal. A side benefit of the device is it can also stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain. Mine keeps falling off during sex, but based on the anecdotal evidence from other users I am willing to keep trying.
From what we have read and heard, what do we know and suspect with some since of certainty? The brain is about the size of a coconut and has the shape of a walnut. The cerebral cortex is gray, has wrinkles, and is divided into two hemispheres. Each infold is called sulcus, and each bulge is called gyrus. The brain’s topography is divided into the cerebellum and a few lobes – frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal. The two hemispheres of the brain are connected by over 80 million axons through a construct labeled corpus callosum. The Limbic System is duplicated in each hemisphere, except for the pineal gland, and is comprised of the thalamus, putamen, amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and caudate nucleus.
The limbic system along with the cerebellum and brain stem are considered to be unconscious and supply our early evolutionary instincts for survival. The conscious cerebral cortex is densely connected to the limbic system and together acts as a control module for our entire physiology. Axons conduct signals, dendrites receive signals with incoming information, and the synapses are the spaces between the axons and dendrites where the energy is released. Neurotransmitters are the chemical carriers of this information, which can cause millions of connected cells to react the same. Each neuron connects with up to ten thousand neighboring neurons. Can you imagine a basketball with ten thousand wires running off its surface? That is a lot of connectability, which points to some major neural complexity.
There are over fifty different neurotransmitters whose neural firings are fueled by glucose and oxygen. The neural network must be protected from diffusion of the energy transmitted by the development of a myelin sheath or myelinization during early childhood. During infancy the brain is very adaptable and if you take away one hemisphere the other will rewire itself to do the task of both, even functions exclusive to the other half. Even with all of these parts and pieces identified, the energy that is being released is still not always consistently located.
Memories of Aunt Sally, language, proprioception- the sense of body awareness, pain and the myriad of other brain activities do not have a nice, neat, one for everyone, location. As a matter of fact, the memories of Aunt Sally seem to involve a very large number of neurons from several different areas of the brain. Even when we study groups of patients with similar disorders, such as, Alexithymia- feel but can’t express emotions, Erotomania- someone famous loves you, Kluver-Buey syndrome- sex with anything coupled with an eating compulsion, or my personal favorite synaesthesia- causing sensory perceptions to blend, we find some similar patterns but not with every patient. A solution to these issues becomes a very complex task indeed. If not for this fact, you could be a millionaire tomorrow by creating a synaesthesia diet where every time you hit middle ‘C’ on a piano you would taste chocolate. Tap, tap, and tap the calories away!
Historically speaking, this field of research has numerous individuals of weight. Psychobiologist Roger Sperry, who was a 1981 Nobel Prize recipient, studied split- brained subjects who had their corpus callosum- 80 million axons thick- severed in a drastic surgical procedure for severe epilepsy. After years of study, he came to the conclusion that each split-brained individual had a clone living in a parallel universe. Do not laugh until you fully understand Super String Theory and quantum physics. Then, we have the French neurologist, Guillaume Duchenne, who could make his patients smile by putting an electric current through their facial nerves as a part of his investigation into the anatomy of our 7,000 plus expressions. Nobel prize winner, Francis Crick, is a personal favorite of mine.
His Nobel Prize was shared with fellow scientist, James Watson, for their double helix definition of DNA. According to a close personal friend, Crick disclosed to him that the revelation came while ramping up his brain activity with LSD. Crick, after realizing that some of his funding was going to disappear, recanted the story for the rest of his life. His latter life is being spent trying to better understand consciousness. He came to the conclusion that consciousness was not a thing but was a process. The person whose ideas I can more closely relate to is Sir Roger Penrose. Penrose states, “To explain understanding I believe we have to step outside the conventional framework of our present day material world and look to a new physical picture that incorporates the quantum universe – a state whose mathematical structure is largely unknown” (Carter, 1998). Penrose also talks about microtubules, which are tiny tubes especially prevalent in nerve cells. These microtubules are being closely examined because of their ability to resonate as receptors to energy input, in a new field of research called quantum biology.
Quantum biology has tremendous potential for bridging the gap of missing knowledge in brain functioning. Energy systems and their entanglement with matter may provide us the answers we need to start producing useful results instead of just additional data. A must read for anyone interested in this research is a new book called ‘Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality’ by Dean Radin.
With this in mind, let me give you another possible hypothesis for brain functioning which would not contradict any of the data thus gathered through brain mapping, but would see the resultant energy release as an aftereffect instead of a causative effect. Historically as far back as the French philosopher Rene Descartes the concept of the brain as a receiver of consciousness from another aspect of unseen reality has existed. Today most physicist accept Super String Theory, with one of its base premises being a reality comprised of a minimum of ten dimensions (time plus nine of space), as a workable tool for explaining cosmology.
The next question is, can you imagine a conscious universe? Do you really believe, when you look at Hubble’s Deep Space imaging, that we are at the top of the consciousness food chain? If the universe has a conscious field, such as biologist Rupert Sheldrakes morphogenetic field theory, full of what I have labeled as, consciouston particle/waves, similar to the elusive graviton (a theoretical particle/wave of gravity), then evolution could be creating various means of connection. The more connectable the construct, the higher the perceptive abilities of that particular form of life. In this scenario, an energy field, as real as gravity, would trigger the energy the brain uses to stimulate physiological responses, which we see released during our current imaging techniques when mapping the mind. This universal energy in its current state, with intelligence to spare, would feel as if it were riding a bicycle looking for a Ferrari.
With our primary emotions being disgust, fear, anger and parental love, the scales seemed tipped towards destruction and violence. The best hope for our species may be an evolutionary jump comparable to the leap from Neanderthals to Cro-Magnon, whom most experts believed lived during an overlapping time period. We could possibly have the next evolved humans as contemporaries also, living amongst us, waiting for the current group of knuckle-draggers to die out. For the future of mankind, we can only hope.
For further information:
Carter, Rita. Mapping the Mind. 1998.
Krishnamurti, Bohm, D., Sheldrake, R., Hidley, J., and KPA. The Nature of the
Mind. 2005. (March 1, 2005).
Lipton, Bruce. The Biology Of Belief: Unleashing The Power Of Consciousness,
Matter and Miracles. Mar 18, 2005.
McFadden, Johnjoe. Quantum Evolution: How Physics’ Weirdest Theory
Explains Life’s Biggest Mystery. 2002.
McTaggart, Lynne. The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe.
Mar 31, 2003.
Radin, Dean. Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality.
April 25, 2006.
Sheldrake, Rupert. A New Science of Life. 1995.
Sheldrake, R., McKenna, T., and Abraham, R. The Evolutionary Mind:
Conversations on Science, Imagination and Spirit. 2005.