Discovering the Brain

Despite the scientific and technological advances in the past few decades, the brain is still a mysterious object that Lende refers to as “an alien technology.” Brains are often compared to computers, but this is a poor comparison because in a broad sense, we know very little about the brain. We use this culture metaphor to describe the basis of the brain, when in reality we have no idea if this is true. We like to believe that we understand how we think, but there is still a vast array of unanswered questions regarding the brain’s basic functions. Unlike DNA, where converting nucleotides to amino acids is essentially the same throughout nature, the brain is a multifunctional entity and requires more than one code to be cracked. It’s difficult to build a bigger picture of the brain when we are using cultural assumptions of how it functions.

Current government funding in neuroscience focuses on narrow and technical approaches towards mapping the brain, but most neuroscientists find it more beneficial to look at the bigger picture to try and understand the brain as a whole before they focus on the small intricacies of its workings. The current objective of most neuroscientists is to find a bridge that links psychology and neuroscience. The future goal is to reverse engineer the brain, but in order to do so scientists much have a grasp on the basic principles.

In order to code the brain we must look at the meaning of its spikes (action potentials), which differ in nearly every part of the brain. Previous science in the evolution of mammals has shown that similar looks don’t necessarily indicate a direct relationship. In order to understand the brain we must look past lookalike assumptions and explore the different meanings of different spikes that may appear to be identical. Coding the brain is a process that will involve the discussion of many scientists in collaboration to understand the multiple ways in which the brain functions and makes everyday life behaviors possible.

Reference: Lende, Daniel. “Our Brains as Alien Technology.” Neuroanthropology. N.p., 19 July 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.

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