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Crazy Brain Stuff

By Edited May 4, 2015 3 5

Your Brain Constructs Your Reality

Brains don't get out much. Actually they spend all their time in the dark, surrounded by chemical and electrical signals (kind of reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein). Another thing, colours don't actually exist, they are simply a construction of the brain, in fact we don't ever need our eyes to see. Remember that flying dream you had last week? You were wearing a purple velvet jumpsuit and fell into the orange ocean, that turned into a strawberry daiquiri,  (Ok so that was my dream) well your eyes weren't open were they?

Humans, (that's us), only see a small fraction of the stuff that's out there. Most of us can see a rainbow, which is simply the refraction of white light. The sky only looks blue, because this spectrum of light is somewhat short and is absorbed by gas molecules in the atmosphere, then scattered off. A sunset on the other hand, looks red, because the suns rays have to travel further to reach us; this results in more scattering of the shorter waves and the longer red waves reach our eyes. Indeed, a red rose only appears red to us, because it absorbs certain wave lengths and reflects others.


But while we can see the waves of the rainbow, we can't see radio waves, which are massively longer, but they are there and can be measured. Also consider red-green color blindness, the most common type of color vision deficiency, which due to a few genes,  or damage to the cones in the retina, results in the inability to tell the difference between various hues of red and green. There are many varieties of 'colour' vision disorders however, like Monochromacy, where a person only sees in black and white. A cow on the other hand doesn't see grass as green because they lack colour receptors.

When you pat your cat, eat chocolate or listen to Gershwin, your brain only has chemical and electrical signals to work with. Remember it's stuck in the dark cave of your skull. Your brain even constructs your sense of time (yes it does). Think about watching your favourite TV program, when time seems to go very fast. But if you are waiting at the doctors office or have to study, each minute seems to crawl along like Sammy the snail.

Duck or Rabbit

Optical Illusion(91042)
Credit: Wikipedia

My Wife and My Mother-in- Law

"My Wife and My Mother-in-Law" from 1915
Credit: Wikipedia

Optical Illusions

What do you see in the first picture a duck or a rabbit? What about the second, a young lady with a feather on her hat, or an old women wearing a scarf? How we perceive each part of a picture, depends on how we see the whole image.  The petite nose of the young lady, is the wart of the old women. Or the young women's coat is perceived as a sumptuous fur, while the old women's coat, more of a rough wool. Our brains are pattern makers, trying to make sense of the world and even if the data is incomplete the brain is trying to find/make meaning. Look at the picture below, we see a floating white triangle, which doesn't actually exist.

Kanizsa Triangle

Optical Illusion(91049)
Credit: Wikipedia

Who are we Anyway?

Consider the famous case of Phineas Gage, who had been a sensible, hardworking family man until a tamping iron which was 3 feet 7 inches long and weighed 13 1/2 pounds went through his head. Gage after the accident, became a different man, swearing, rebellious, obstinate and impatient. Today we know that severe damage to the frontal lobe of the brain, will cause such personality changes.

Neuroscientists,  Dr. V. S. Ramachandran and David Eagleman, examine, how brain injury, brain tumours  or disorders such as epilepsy, can change personality, or our experience of life. Some patients, for example with temporal lobe epilepsy begin to see 'cosmic significance in insignificant events' and become 'egocentric' and 'pedantic'. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, researches patients, who when experiencing hearing loss, begin to have musical hallucinations. It seems that the brain wants imput and if deprived of it, may create whole symphony orchestras, or even a voice singing "God Bless America".

Phineas Gage

Gage, here with his "constant companion" – his inscribed tamping iron
Credit: Wikipedia

How Do We Know What is Real?

If we can't rely on our senses, because they may lie to us and brain injury, tumors or neurotransmitter dysfunction is capable of changing our behaviour, character or function, how do we know who we really are?

Brains! - Wizard Of Oz T-shirt
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The Doors of Perception



Mar 30, 2012 4:39am
you're really writing some interesting stuff etcetera...yeah, we all live in our own separate realities to some extent don't we...was only thinking the other day that i wish the existentialists had been around to know about the subatomic particle stuff and how the wave function collapses on observation - therefore possible that we actually physically change our own realities etc...

this article also reminded me of a book i read recently about how newton nearly blinded himself by continually poking himself in his eyes as he was trying to work out how we saw colours...lol...

oh, and your holden caulfield article was great too and that reminded me that i must dig out catcher in the rye again and re-read it as haven't done so since i was about 16 and had such an impact on me at the time, but realised i've forgotten most of it now...

great articles...hope there's a market for them so you can keep doing them! :-)
Mar 30, 2012 5:10am
I am Pretty obtuse I know and there is probably no real market, but I have to keep myself interested!
You have some interesting thoughts there. Existentialism I think was of it's time and wouldn't translate too well into this era. Also I am a major sceptic and I don't think there is any evidence that quantum mechanics plays any part in human consciousness (but who knows not me).
As to Newton he locked himself away in his room during his summer holidays and comes out with the theories of how light, rainbows, gravity and tides work. Amazing guy but probably he had Asperger syndrome (obviously a major genius).
Thanks for your thoughts, much appreciated.
Mar 30, 2012 9:05am
no, i don't really have an opinion on any of that, just find it interesting...and yeah, just thought the existentialists would love all that stuff...but weren't around to know, which seems a shame...
hope you do make some money with your articles anyway :-)
Apr 21, 2012 12:50am
They say seeing is believing and touching is knowing, but today neither of those are definite clues to whether something is "real" or not.
Apr 21, 2012 1:44am
This is true. For example after a very short period of sensory deprivation (like being alone in a jail cell or lost in a forest) many people can start to see and hear things that are not there.
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