What Is The Soul
It is not only religious thinkers who have proposed that we possess a soul. Some of the most notable proponents have been philosophers, such as Plato and René Descartes in the 17th century.
Plato believed we do not learn new things but recall things we knew before birth. For this to be so, he concluded, we must have a soul.
Centuries later, Descartes wrote his thesis Passions of the Soul, where he argued there was a distinction between the mind, which he described as a thinking substance, and the body, the extended substance. He wrote:
because we have no conception of the body as thinking in any way, we have reason to believe that every kind of thought which exists in us belongs to the soul.
One of the many arguments Descartes advanced for the existence of the soul was that the brain, which is a part of the body, is mortal and divisible meaning it has different parts and the soul is eternal and indivisible meaning it is an inseparable whole. Therefore, he concluded they must be different things.
But advances in neuroscience have shown these arguments to be false.
The Brain And Nervous System
The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord. The outermost part of the brain is known as the cerebral cortex. This portion of the brain is responsible for functioning in cognition, sensation, motor skills, and emotions.
The brain is comprised of four lobes:
- Frontal lobe: This portion of the brain is involved in motor skills, higher-level cognition, and expressive language.
- Occipital lobe: This portion of the brain is involved in interpreting visual stimuli and information.
- Parietal lobe: This portion of the brain is involved in the processing of tactile sensory information such as pressure, touch, and pain as well as several other functions.
- Temporal lobe: This portion of the brain is involved in the interpretation of the sounds and language we hear, memory processing, as well as other functions.
Another important part of the nervous system is the peripheral nervous system, which is divided into two parts:
- The motor division connecting the central nervous system to the muscles and glands.
- The sensory division carries all types of sensory information to the central nervous system.
There is another component of the nervous system known as the autonomic nervous system, which regulates automatic processes such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system:
Our Brains Use More Energy Than Anything Else
Here is just how much of our brain we are using at any given time. Our brains only account for 5% of our body mass yet it uses 20% of our energy! Thats a lot of energy going into one small part of the body, but thank goodness it does!
The brain uses energy to keep itself going and maintain its ability to send electrical signals when needed. Everything that we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch becomes an electrical signal that is sent to the brain so the information can be integrated and help us make decisions. Our brain is constantly passing back sodium and potassium ions to keep that electricity on and allow signals to move where they need to go. That takes up a lot of energy!
Heres another interesting fact about how we use our brains. Did you know that we use just as much energy when we are sleeping as when we are awake? As we sleep, the brain uses energy to maintain itself and restore the body. It has to send out many different signals as we move through the different stages of sleep.
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Want To Tap Into Your Potential Keep Your Brain Healthy
Through a process called neuroplasticity, our brains are always changing and growing. Even right now, your brain is sending signals throughout its entire structure and communicating with the body. Thanks, brain!
The best way to ensure that you use your potential is to keep your brain healthy. Quick ways to maintain optimum brain health include:
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels
- Staying away from binge drinking or smoking
- Wearing helmets when biking, climbing, or doing other dangerous physical activities
- Lowering stress levels
- Getting a healthy amount of sleep
Care for your brain you only have one, and youre already using most of it!
How We Study The Brain
The brain is difficult to study because it is housed inside the thick bone of the skull. Whats more, it is difficult to access the brain without hurting or killing the owner of the brain. As a result, many of the earliest studies of the brain focused on unfortunate people who happened to have damage to some particular area of their brain. For instance, in the 1880s a surgeon named Paul Broca conducted an autopsy on a former patient who had lost his powers of speech. Examining his patients brain, Broca identified a damaged areanow called the Brocas Areaon the left side of the brain . Over the years a number of researchers have been able to gain insights into the function of specific regions of the brain from these types of patients.
An alternative to examining the brains or behaviors of humans with brain damage or surgical lesions can be found in the instance of animals. Some researchers examine the brains of other animals such as rats, dogs and monkeys. Although animals brains differ from human brains in both size and structure there are many similarities as well. The use of animals for study can yield important insights into human brain function.
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Research Focus: Identifying The Unique Functions Of The Left And Right Hemispheres Using Split
We have seen that the left hemisphere of the brain primarily senses and controls the motor movements on the right side of the body, and vice versa. This fact provides an interesting way to study brain lateralization the idea that the left and the right hemispheres of the brain are specialized to perform different functions. Gazzaniga, Bogen, and Sperry studied a patient, known as W. J., who had undergone an operation to relieve severe seizures. In this surgery, the region that normally connects the two halves of the brain and supports communication between the hemispheres, known as the corpus callosum, is severed. As a result, the patient essentially becomes a person with two separate brains. Because the left and right hemispheres are separated, each hemisphere develops a mind of its own, with its own sensations, concepts, and motivations .
Although Gazzanigas research demonstrated that the brain is in fact lateralized, such that the two hemispheres specialize in different activities, this does not mean that when people behave in a certain way or perform a certain activity they are only using one hemisphere of their brains at a time. That would be drastically oversimplifying the concept of brain differences. We normally use both hemispheres at the same time, and the difference between the abilities of the two hemispheres is not absolute .
Functions Of The Cortex
When the German physicists Gustav Fritsch and Eduard Hitzig applied mild electric stimulation to different parts of a dogs cortex, they discovered that they could make different parts of the dogs body move. Furthermore, they discovered an important and unexpected principle of brain activity. They found that stimulating the right side of the brain produced movement in the left side of the dogs body, and vice versa. This finding follows from a general principle about how the brain is structured, called contralateral control. The brain is wired such that in most cases the left hemisphere receives sensations from and controls the right side of the body, and vice versa.
Figure 3.11 The Sensory Cortex and the Motor Cortex
The portion of the sensory and motor cortex devoted to receiving messages that control specific regions of the body is determined by the amount of fine movement that area is capable of performing. Thus the hand and fingers have as much area in the cerebral cortex as does the entire trunk of the body.
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What Does The Brain Do
The human brain is the centre of the bodys nervous system and the seat of cognition. It is responsible for everything that we do, feel, and perceive. Therapists may find it helpful to provide psychoeducation to clients about the structure and function of the brain. This can help to normalize distressing symptoms and engage the client in rehabilitation, or motivate them to pursue a course of therapy. The What Does The Brain Do? information handout brain lobes are annotated on the lateral view, and the design and language have been kept simple so that the handout can be used with a wide range of clients, including those with neurological conditions.
Evolving Scope And Structure Of Psychological Science
The discoveries and advances of psychological science keep expanding its scope and tools and changing its structure and organization. For most of the 20th century, psychological science consisted of a variety of specialized subfields with little interconnection. They ranged from clinical psychology to the study of individual differences and personality, to social psychology, to industrial-organizational psychology, to community psychology, to the experimental study of such basic processes as memory, thinking, perception and sensation, to animal behaviour, and to physiological psychology. In larger academic psychology departments, the list got longer. The various subfields, each with its own distinct history and specialized mission, usually were bundled together within academic departments, essentially a loose federation of unrelated disciplines, each with its own training program and research agenda. Late in the 20th century this situation began to change, fueled in part by the rapid growth of developments in cognitive science and social cognitive neuroscience, including the discovery of new methods for studying cognition, emotion, the brain, and genetic influences on mind and behaviour.
In another direction, links deepened between psychology and law. This connection reflected new findings in psychology about the nature of human social behaviour, as well as the fallibility of eyewitness testimony in legal trials and the distortions in retrospective memory.
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A Recipe For Psychology In The 21st Century
The modern constructionist approach that I envision for psychology in the 21st century is grounded in a simple observation. Every moment of waking life our brain realizes mental states and actions by combining three sources of stimulation: sensory stimulation made available by and captured from the world outside the skin , sensory signals captured from within the body that holds your brain , and prior experience that the brain makes available by the reactivation and reinhibition of sensory and motor neurons . These three sourcessensations from the world, sensations from the body, and prior experienceare continually available, and they form the three fundamental aspects of all mental life. Different recipes produce the myriad of mental events that constitute the mind. Depending on the focus of attention and proclivities of the scientist, this stream of brain activity is parsed into discrete psychological moments that we call by different names: feeling,thinking,remembering, or even seeing. Each view is right in its own way.
Careers In Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychologists can work at universities doing research or teaching. They can also work in the private sector in organizational psychology, software development, or human-computer interaction. Another option for cognitive psychologists is working in a clinical setting treating patients for issues related to mental processes, like:
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The Brain As A Difference Engine
The challenge of explaining consciousness as a physical process is made more tractable, I suggest, by recognizing that brains operate on the principle of energetic processing. Neurons, in concert with other material structures such as astrocytes and mitochondria, convert, distribute, and dissipate electro-chemical energy through highly organized pathways in order to drive behaviors critical to the organisms survival. This makes sense when we consider the fact that organisms inhabit a physical world that is structured through the actions of energy, forces and work. To survive and prosper in this world they must continually work to acquire new supplies of high-grade or free energy to maintain an internal state far from thermodynamic equilibrium . Besides internal regulation, nervous systems enable organisms to perform two major tasks: discriminating between variations in environmental conditions, such as temperature, acidity, salinity, nutrient levels, or presence of predators, and moving toward environmental conditions that are beneficial to survival and away from those that are harmful.
Link Between Biopsychology And Human Behavior
Researchers also became interested in understanding how different parts of the brain control human behavior. One early attempt at understanding this led to the development of a pseudoscience known as phrenology. According to this view, certain human faculties could be linked to bumps and indentations of the brain which could be felt on the surface of the skull.
While phrenology became quite popular, it was also soon dismissed by other scientists. However, the idea that certain parts of the brain were responsible for certain functions played an important role in the development of future brain research.
The famous case of Phineas Gage, a railroad worker who suffered a devastating brain injury, also had an influence on our understanding of how damage to certain parts of the brain could impact behavior and functioning.
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Recording Electrical Activity In The Brain
In addition to lesion approaches, it is also possible to learn about the brain by studying the electrical activity created by the firing of its neurons. One approach, primarily used with animals, is to place detectors in the brain to study the responses of specific neurons. Research using these techniques has found, for instance, that there are specific neurons, known as feature detectors, in the visual cortex that detect movement, lines and edges, and even faces .
A less invasive approach, and one that can be used on living humans, is electroencephalography , as shown in Figure 4.14. The EEG is a technique that records the electrical activity produced by the brains neurons through the use of electrodes that are placed around the research participants head. An EEG can show if a person is asleep, awake, or anesthetized because the brainwave patterns are known to differ during each state. EEGs can also track the waves that are produced when a person is reading, writing, and speaking, and are useful for understanding brain abnormalities, such as epilepsy. A particular advantage of EEG is that the participant can move around while the recordings are being taken, which is useful when measuring brain activity in children, who often have difficulty keeping still. Furthermore, by following electrical impulses across the surface of the brain, researchers can observe changes over very fast time periods.
Right Brain Left Brain
The cerebrum is divided into two halves: the right and left hemispheres . The left hemisphere controls the right half of the body,and the right hemisphere controls the left half of the body.
The two hemispheres are connected by a thick band of neural fibers known as the corpus callosum,consisting of about 200 million axons. The corpus callosum allows the two hemispheres to communicatewith each other and allows for information being processed on one side of the brain to be shared with theother side.
Figure 2. The cerebrum is divided into left and right hemispheres. The two sides are connected by the nerve fibers corpus callosum.
Hemispheric lateralization is the idea that each hemisphere is responsible for different functions. Each of these functions are localized to either the right or left side.
The left hemisphere is associated with language functions, such as formulating grammar and vocabulary, and containing different language centres .
The right hemisphere is associated with more visuospatial functions such as visualization, depth perception, and spatial navigation. These left and right functions are the case in the majority of people, especially those who are right-handed.
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Neuroscience And Psychology: A Happy Couple
There are, unarguably, distinct differences between the disciplines of neuroscience and psychology but thats what makes the relationship between these two subjects so fascinating.
Advances in neuroscience help solidify psychological theory in some cases in others, neuroscience provides breakthroughs that challenges classical ways of thinking. Meanwhile, psychology provides vital insight into the complexity of human behavior the product of all those neural processes.
Neuroscience and psychology work together and challenge one another in equal measure, which promotes progress in both fields, says Dr Kevin Fleming, Founder of Grey Matters International.
A unique service combining neuroscience and psychology, Grey Matters International provides life-changing solutions that merge these two areas, delivering tailored executive wellness, substance abuse and relationship therapy.
Dr Fleming commented:
Decisional neuroscience-specifically, how neural networks, biases, prior learnings, trauma patterns, and other critical brain-based factors all intersect to influence why we do what we do-is central to Grey Matters Internationals tool kit to guide people to faster and more effective change.especially when talk therapy hasnt produced the life changes people desire. Thats what we are about.
Psychology Today The Discipline of Neuroscience Date Accessed: 07/12/19
Consciousness And Energy In The Brain
We do not fully understand the biological function of energy in the brain or how it relates to the presence of consciousness in the person3. Given that the human brain accounts for only 2% of the bodys mass it demands a large portion of the bodys total energy budget, some 20% . Most of this energy is derived from the oxidization of glucose supplied to the cerebral tissue through the blood. Roy and Sherrington were the first to propose a direct correspondence between changes in cerebral blood flow and functional activity . Many features of human brain anatomy, such as the number of blood vessels per unit of space, the lengths of neural connections, the width of axons, and even the ratio of brain to stomach size are thought to be determined by the high metabolic demands associated with complex cognitive processing .
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