What could be more fascinating than our brain? It produces the most fantastic thoughts. Everything we know about worlds as far away as other solar systems or as small as an atom has once been discovered by an inquisitive brain. Even the knowledge we have about the brain itself has derived from the researching brains of driven scientists.
So much has changed recently in our knowledge of this amazing organ. Findings assumed to be facts during the early years of brain research have turned out to be wrong. This is quite understandable since early brain scientists had to work with very limited resources. More sophisticated research technologies shed a whole different light on the brain and all its powers. We DON’T use only ten percent of our brain. New neurones ARE being born during our lifetime. The brain DOES have an inbuilt capacity to recover.
Our knowledge of the human brain has grown explosively. New findings do not stop to amaze us. Many more developments and discoveries will follow. Every new finding only adds to the list of questions we still have about the functioning of the brain. It becomes ever more clear how complicated our brain is. It is an intricate sum of many, many items and processes among which brain cells, chemicals and electric currents.
We should be extremely grateful for the brain we ended up with through the evolution of mankind. Not only did nature make sure it is safely tucked away in our skull, but it is also capable of extraordinary achievements. Our brain can adapt to the circumstances in an impressive way and has an unlimited capacity to learn. From one generation to the next one, we know ever more. This is only possible thanks to the brain’s capacity to share information with other brains; at first, through sounds and gestures, then via spoken language and afterwards in a far bigger and more lasting way through written language. This way, in the course of time, a kind of gigantic ‘universal brain’ has come into being where every newcomer of the human race can tap into and also can add new facts.
The brain is an incredibly flexible organ that improves in use. The more you put your brain to work the better it functions. It becomes more efficient and opens up room for new tasks. It is clear, our brain does not work like a machine which can be well-oiled and maintained but will deteriorate anyway through frequent use. Even when something goes wrong in our head, due to a stroke for instance, the brain is so adaptable it has the possibility to regroup brain cells to continue functioning as normal as possible.
“Our brains renew themselves throughout life to an extent previously thought not possible.”
Michael Gazzaniga, neuroscientist
Nevertheless, our brain is very vulnerable too. Exactly because it is such a complex entity, the delicate balance inside our skull can easily be disrupted. A minimal change could have devastating consequences for the well-being of large parts of the brain. A tiny problem could start a chain reaction and thus cause a dramatic decline in our cognitive abilities.
But most of the time our brain keeps doing what it should do and almost never lets us down in our busy daily life. It is amazing how, day in day out, the brain makes sure our body functions well. If something goes wrong somewhere, the brain directs the repair. It does its job so perfectly, we never think about whether all is well up there in that brainpan. A thought, by the way, that would also be produced by that same brain.
© Scott Maxwell – Fotolia.com
Brain scan © svedoliver – Fotolia.com