How the human brain works, in 8 keystrokes

Understanding how the brain works takes years to learn, and yet the level of understanding we can come to have about this set of organs will always be very limited; It is not in vain that the human brain is one of the most complex systems in existence.

On another side, there are a few ideas that will help you get a better understanding of this concept of disorder first.s that are used to explain what this part of the nervous system is. Here are some of those keys.

Basic ideas about how the brain works

this is a list of ideas that I think help me understand basic ideas about how the brain works. I recommend reading them in order, as they are sorted from micro to macro.

1. Glia and neurons

A brain is essentially a collection of neurons and glial cells. The latter are less well known outside academia, but are actually much more numerous than neurons (which is quite impressive, considering that an adult human brain has around 80,000,000,000 neurons).

What are each of these cell types responsible for? Neurons are the ones that create the flow of electrochemical signals that make up mental processes; basically everything that psychology studies is embodied in the way neurons communicate with each other.

Glial cells, on the other hand, perform very different functions and, until recently, it was believed that they were primarily responsible for protecting neurons and facilitating their movement. However, in recent years, research has shown how glial cells have their own communication network and can influence the relationships between neurons. In other words, we are only just beginning to understand its full importance.

2. The role of synapses

When it comes to understanding how the brain works, knowing how the communication networks work between neurons is just as or more important than knowing how each neuron works individually, and that means the points at which these nerve cells provide information. ‘they send each other is crucial. importance to neuroscientists and psychologists. The name given to these areas is “synaptic space”, which in the vast majority of cases it is a small separation that opens between the cell membranes of the nerve endings of two neurons: One of them is presynaptic and the other is postsynaptic.

At the synapses, the electrical signal that passes through a neuron is transformed into a chemical signal, that is, a torrent of substances that we call neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. These microscopic particles reach the nerve end of the other neuron and there they are captured by structures called receptors. From this point on, the torrent of chemicals received by the postpsynaptic neuron has an effect on how often that nerve cell will emit electrical impulses that can have effects on other neurons.

This mechanism sounds simple, but it really isn’t, as there are many types of neurotransmitters and structures that interact with them, and at the same time, each neuron is usually connected to many more at once: information is usually not transmitted in a linear fashion, as in the phone game.

3. Software and hardware are indistinguishable

It is common to try to understand the brain as if it were a conventional computer, but this comparison is only justified in certain contexts because it does not serve to capture the actual functioning of the brain. And one of the main reasons why a brain differs from a computer is the fact that in the former case, it makes no sense to distinguish between software and hardware. All the processes that take place in a brain materially alter the brain, and the structure of the brain itself is what causes neurons to send nerve signals: Does not depend on programming codes.

This is why, among other things, the brain does not work with content that can be stored on a USB stick, as is the case with computers. We can play to interpret what is happening in a brain in real time, and make this interpretation structured like a code understandable for us, but this code will have been invented by us; it does not come from the brain. This is not to say that it is impossible to know roughly what certain parts of the torrent of information that passes through a brain consist of.

4. Brain plasticity

From what has been said above follows this other idea: that the brain is changing all the time, we do what we do. Everything we perceive and do leaves a more or less intense mark on our brain, and that mark, in turn, will cause everything that happens from that moment to be somehow or other. . In other words, our mental life is an accumulation of modifications, of neurons which tighten their bonds and then release them according to everything that happens to us.

This ability (or rather need) of our brain to constantly change depending on the circumstances is called brain plasticity.

5. The role of care

Even though the human brain looks like a natural prodigy capable of doing some pretty awesome things, the truth is that the dataset it works with is still full of loopholes. In fact, it isn’t even able to properly process all of the information that comes to it in real time through the senses, and we’re not talking about remembering everything, which only happens in incredibly exceptional cases.

What the human brain does is obey the principle of survival: What matters is not knowing everything, but knowing just enough to survive. Attention is the mechanism by which some parts of the available information are selected and others are ignored. In this way, the nervous system is able to locate pieces of information that are relevant to drawing attention to themselves and not to others, all depending on our purpose. This mechanic gives a lot of play, because it makes us in certain circumstances seem to be blind to the things going on in front of our noses.

6. The brain invents things

This point is derived from the previous section. Because the brain has a limited amount of “processable” information, there are information gaps that it must fill without having to constantly search for the missing information. For that, there are automatic mechanisms that cover these gaps discreetly.

One example is what happens to the part of the retina that gives way to the start of the optic nerve. This is an area where the eye is unable to transform light signals into nerve impulses, and it is as if we have a hole in the middle of our visual field. However, we do not realize it.

7. Parts of the brain always work together

Although in the brain, it is formed of different anatomical areas more or less specialized in certain processes, they all need to be well connected to each other to work well. This does not mean that they must all communicate directly with everyone else, but that in order to function, they must be connected to the “general network” of information that circulates in the brain.

8. The rational and the emotional go hand in hand

Although it is very useful for us to distinguish between the rational and the emotional in theoretical terms, In our brain, all the mental processes that we can relate to this or that area work together.

For example, the parts of the brain most related to the onset of emotions (a set of structures known as the limbic system) are those that set goals that one seeks to achieve effectively through action plans. based on logic and which, in any case, they will not cease to be influenced by emotional factors which will make the rationality of these strategies quite relative, even if we do not realize it.

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