The Human Brain

Before my daughter’s 2nd birthday, I was quizzing her on the colors. She had a deck of cards with colored shapes on them. I was showing her a purple octagon and was expecting to hear her say “purple”. But instead she says ‘Mommy, that’s an octagon”. You can imagine my surprise! Later I found out, she had learnt that from her older, teenage brother who often plays with her.


We were born to learn, discover new worlds as we travel through billions of years of evolution. We started in Africa, speechless and in the dark, and then we spread far and wide lighting the world with fire and speech. We have been gifted with extraordinary abilities, from the very beginning. Our stone-age ancestors had the same brain, with the same capability, to learn languages, to compose music, to understand abstract mathematics and to design a spacecraft. Yet, it took a million years to know what we know now and see ourselves as we see now.


The human brain is designed for learning. If you look at it from a physiological standpoint, what differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is nothing but 3 pounds of blood drenched protein and fat. Weighing in at 2% of our body weight it uses 20% of blood flow and makes it the most complex, highly organized entity in the world. The brain has 100 billion neurons (brain cells), some with connections to 10,000 or more other neurons. You can do the math over the endless possible sum of connections between the neurons. Over 70% of the neo-cortex (the outer layer of the brain) has no apparent function and is thus available for learning beyond anything we could imagine. With a million-billion connections, the potential of the human brain is limitless.


The architecture of the human brain was once thought to be dynamic in infancy and childhood and grow static with age. Recent research has shown the adult human brain is constantly reorganizing itself and is more dynamic than static. It was also believed that the brain cells die with age and cannot be replaced. Research has shown that the brain is capable of growing dendrites. Most recent research has uncovered that if we stay active and keep learning, we can also grow new neurons till we die.


The brain has often been unfairly compared with a computer. Of course, the computer can perform complex mathematical computations in the blink of an eye, beat you at a game of chess, tell you if it will rain tomorrow. But can it record the joy of discovery in your child’s eyes or dreaming the impossible or the swell of love in your heart when you look at your child or most importantly create new things. The computer is undoubtedly quick and precise while the human brain is slow and the thought process often messy and fuzzy. The creative potential of the human brain is what sets us apart. The ability to create art and music never created before, build things never built before, think thoughts never thought before. Simply put, the creative capacity of the human brain is infinite. So, let’s celebrate this gift and instead of creating weapons of mass destruction, let us realize our potentials and transcend into the realms of consciousness.

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