Brain myths

 

I keep coming across brain myths, which is surprising since a simple Google search is enough to dispel them. And yet, it’s perhaps not so surprising.

For instance, “we only use 10% of our brain”(or another small percentage), implying that our brain has capacities we are not using. This is silly even on the surface. Why would evolution produce a brain that has capacities we don’t use? Evolution would only select for capacities we – the majority of us, and most of the time – are using. It’s true that we use our brain very effectively, which means that certain parts only “light up” when they are actually needed and in use. The rest of the time, they rest, which is what makes most sense. So we do use all of our brain, but not at the same time. (If we did, it would be called a seizure…!)

The left/right brain myth is also prevalent, and equally much a myth.

So why are these ideas perpetuated? I suspect because they do work as metaphors. There is a grain of truth in them. A metaphorical truth even if it’s not a literal truth.

We do indeed have capacities that most of us are not making use of. It has nothing to do with not using more of our brain, and everything to do with either (a) not having developed these capacities further, or (b) being distracted or having beliefs so they are not revealed to us. We may not have developed our critical thinking, or music skills, or dance abilities. And our attention may be caught up in beliefs and identifications, so we don’t notice that any sense of being a separate me comes from identification with thought. We don’t notice what we really are, which is what this field of experience – as it is here and now – happens within and as. (AKA awareness, love.)

It’s also obvious that we have a more creative and holistic way of experiencing and relating to the world, and a more linear and analytic one. We wouldn’t get very far if we didn’t have both. It has very little to do with brain hemispheres, but we still have these aspects of how we view and relate to the world. It’s a metaphorical truth, not a literal one.

Justice and the brain

 

The human brain is a big believer in equality — and a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, has become the first to gather the images to prove it.

Specifically, the team found that the reward centers in the human brain respond more strongly when a poor person receives a financial reward than when a rich person does. The surprising thing? This activity pattern holds true even if the brain being looked at is in the rich person’s head, rather than the poor person’s.
– from Science Daily

From an evolutionary perspective, it is not surprising that we may be predisposed for justice. We are social animals, and in many cases, justice benefits the group as a whole.

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Brain and boundaries

 

By observing brain cancer patients before and after brain surgery, researchers in Italy have found that damage to the posterior part of the brain, specifically in an area called the parietal cortex, can increase patients’ feelings of “self transcendence,” or feeling at one with the universe. The parietal cortex is the region that is is usually involved in maintaining a sense of self, for example by helping you keep track of your body parts. It has also been linked to prayer and meditation.
Discover Magazine blog

Its a rich and interesting field, finding physiological correlates to whatever goes under the “spiritual” umbrella: A sense of awe, gratitude, compassion. A widened sense of “us”. A stronger and more mature sense of ethics. A reduced sense of boundaries, or recognition of boundaries as imagined. Effects of meditation or prayer practice, such as a more stable attention, improved self-regulation, and recognition of thoughts as thoughts. States of various kinds. And much more. Each of these are most likely related to short- and long-term changes in different and specific brain regions, and also the endocrine system, immune system, cellular function, and so on.

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