MIND-MATTER

Brain Isn’t a Computer — It’s a Quantum Field

The brain is one of the most complex and magnificent organs in the human body. Our brain gives us awareness of ourselves and of our environment, processing a constant stream of sensory data. It controls our muscle movements, the secretions of our glands, and even our breathing and internal temperature. Every creative thought, feeling, and plan is developed by our brain. The brain’s neurons record the memory of every event in our lives.

By examining our minds at a quantum level, we change them, and by changing them, we change the reality that shapes them. The quantum-cognition theory opens the fields of psychology and neuroscience to understanding the mind not as a linear computer, but rather an elegant universe.

In the example of the meeting, if someone asks, “Did it go well?” we immediately think of ways it did. However, if he or she asks, “Were you nervous about the meeting?” we might remember that it was pretty scary to give a presentation in front of a group. The other borrowed concept in quantum cognition is that we cannot hold incompatible ideas in our minds at one time. In other words, decision-making and opinion-forming are a lot like Schrödinger’s cat.

Memories make up the ongoing experience of your life. Your collective set of memories is what makes you who you are. Encoding is the first step in creating a memory. It’s a biological phenomenon that beings with perception. Each memory is a set of multiple sensations that travel to the hippocampus in the brain which combines these perceptions into a single experience. The hippocampus and frontal cortex are responsible for analyzing these various sensory inputs and deciding if they’re worth remembering. If they are, they may become part of your long-term memory. Although a memory begins with perception, it is encoded and stored using electricity and chemicals. Nerve cells connect with other cells at a point called a synapse. Electrical pulses carry messages between nerve cells in the brain. Brain cells work together in a network, organizing themselves into groups that specialize in different kinds of information processing. The more signals sent between them, the stronger the connection grows. Your brain rewires its physical structure with each new experience. Once a memory is created, it must be stored (no matter how briefly).

Memories get stored in 3 ways: first in the sensory stage, then in short-term memory; and ultimately, in long-term memory. Because there is no need for us to maintain everything in our brain, the different stages of human memory function as a sort of filter that helps in protecting us from the flood of information on a daily basis. When you want to remember something, you retrieve the information on an unconscious level. Bringing it into your conscious mind at will.

When you start forgetting random things, like the name of a colleague, you are simply experiencing a breakdown of the assemble process of memory, a breakdown that many of us begin to experience in our 20’s and that tends to get worse as we reach our 50s. This age-dependent loss of function appears in many animals and it begins with the onset of sexual maturity. As you begin to age, these synapses begin to falter, which begins to affect how easily you can retrieve memories.

                                                                Credits:                                                                 Cambridge University, Jvan Dimkovic,  VideoHive,  Envato, EPFL

Michio Kaku:  In the entire universe the two greatest scientific mysteries are first of all the origin of the universe itself.  And second of all the origin of intelligence.  Believe it or not, sitting on our shoulders is the most complex object that Mother Nature has created in the known universe.  You have to go at least 24 trillion miles to the nearest star to find a planet that may have life and may have intelligence.  And yet our brain only consumes about 20-30 watts of power and yet it performs calculations better than any large supercomputer.  So it’s a mystery.  How is the brain wired up?  And if we can figure that out what can we do with it to enhance our mental capabilities.

When you look at the brain and all the parts of the brain they don’t seem to make any sense at all.  The visual part of the brain is way in the back, for example.  Why is the brain constructed the way it is?  Is this nothing but an accident of evolution?  Well one way to look at it is through evolution.  That is, the back of the brain is a so-called Reptilian brain.  The most ancient primitive part of the brain that governs balance, territoriality, mating.  And so the very back of the brain is also the kind of brain that you find in reptiles.  Now when I was a child I would go to the science museum and look at the snakes sometimes and they would stare back at me.  And I would wonder, “What are they thinking about?”  Well, I think now I know.  What they’re thinking about was, “Is this person lunch?”

Then we have the center part of the brain going forward and that’s a so-called Monkey Brain, the Mammalian brain.  The brain of emotions.  The brain of social hierarchies.  And then finally the front of the brain is the human brain, especially the prefrontal cortex.  This is where rational thinking is.  And when you ask yourself a question where am I anyway.  The answer is right behind your forehead.  That’s where you really are.

Well, I have a theory of consciousness which tries to wrap it all up together.  There’ve been about 20,000 or so papers written about consciousness and no consensus.  Never in the history of science have so many people devoted so much time to produce so little.  Well, I’m a physicist and when we physicists look at a mysterious object the first thing we try to do is to create a model.  A model of this object in space.  And then we hit the play button and run it forward in time.  This is how Newton was able to come up with the theory of gravity.  This is how Einstein came up with relativity.  So I tried to use this in terms of the human brain and evolution.  So what I’m saying is I have a new theory of consciousness based on evolution.  And that is consciousness is the number of feedback loops required to create a model of your position in space with relationship to other organisms and finally in relationship to time.

So think of the consciousness of a thermostat.  I believe that even a lowly thermostat has one unit of consciousness.  That is, it senses the temperature around it.  And then we have a flower.  A flower has maybe, maybe ten units of consciousness.  It has to understand the temperature, the weather, humidity, where gravity is pointing.  And then finally we go to the reptilian brain which I call level 1 consciousness and reptiles basically have a very good understanding of their position in space, especially because they have to lunge out and grab prey.  Then we have level 2 consciousness, the monkey consciousness.  The consciousness of emotions, social hierarchies, where are we in relationship to the tribe.  And then where are we as humans.

As humans we are at level 3.  We run simulations into the future.  Animals apparently don’t do this.  They don’t plan to hibernate.  They don’t plan the next day’s agenda.  They have no conception of tomorrow to the best of our ability.  But that’s what our brain does.  Our brain is a prediction machine.  And so when we look at the evolution from the reptilian brain to the mammalian brain to the prefrontal cortex, we realize that is the process of understanding our position in space with respect to others – that is emotions – and finally running simulations into the future.

You have to Train your mind to be stronger than your emotions. “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”-George R.R. Martin. The mind is faculty of thinking, reasoning and applying knowledge. It is our consciousness that starts in the brain and is manifested through our thoughts, actions, will, memories, imagination and emotions. Constantly learning and consciously putting oneself through new experiences expand the mind giving you a clear-minded awareness. Becoming more aware helps us to be liberated from all the mental layers that form obstacles and seemingly becoming great or exceptional individuals. Mind wanders freely when you sleep, mind movement limits when you are awake. Mind Expands during a sleep, and contracts when you are awake, so try to awake mind when you are awake.

Image result for brain
Image result for brain

The nerve cells that link the frontal lobe to the rest of the brain aren’t fully connected. This part of the brain is responsible for Judgement and Insight. Meaning teenagers are biologically incapable of seeing how their behavior affects others. We underestimate the brain’s capacity for learning and development. Advances in the developmental science of adolescence are providing new insights into how these brain changes appear to create windows of opportunity—a time when healthy versions of experiential learning can have strong positive influences on trajectories of health, education, social, and economic success. It is a serious misunderstanding to believe this neural plasticity ends at three, five or 10 years of age.

  1. Human, Mind and Insight

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. – Ellen Goodman. Pulitzer Prize-winning in 1980, American Journalist, columnist, writer, speaker commentator and nonprofit leader, who has spent most of her life chronicling social change and its impact on American life. If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

The Trap of Mind

One day, the Buddha placed a few grains of sand on his thumb nail. He asked the monks: “What quantity of sand is greater-the quantity on my thumb nail, or the quantity on earth?” The monks said: ‘The quantity on earth is greater.” The Buddha said: “In the same way, Monks, those beings who will be born as Human beings are as few as the grains of sand on my thumb. Those who are born as other beings than human beings are as great as the sand on earth” (Samyutta Nikaya).

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. Everything comes from insight. “Someone I loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift”- Mary Oliver. Educate yourself- When a question about a certain topic pops up, google it. Watch movies and documentaries. When something sparks your interest, read about it. Read, read and meditate. Meditation is compulsory and very important to study, learn, stimulus your sleeping brain. Don’t just rely on the regular school system, educate the beautiful mind of yours. Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. Carl Jung says- Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge. So, don’t hate what you don’t understand. When your children desires to talk to you and share their problems with you, stop everything and listen to them. There is nothing more important than that. If you want to change the world, go home and love your family. Family means no one gets lost behind or forgotten.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of mind to think for exploration in finding the meaning of life and purpose of existence. In Japanese schools, the students don’t get any exams until they reach grade four (the age of 10), why? Because the goal for the first 3 years of schools is not to judge the child’s knowledge, memorization capacity or learning academic ability, but to establish good manners to develop their character, and enhance their learning of social skills, adaptation in new environment.

Your mind is a constant traffic of thoughts, and it is always rush hour, day in, day out. We cling to music, to poems, to quotes, to writing, to art because we desperately do not want to be alone. We want to know we aren’t going crazy and someone else out there knows exactly how you’re feeling. We want someone to explain the things we can’t. The most complicated skill is to be simple.

Your brain constructs your reality based on what you pay attention to. Learning to manage and direct your focus is the key to improving virtually every aspect of your life. Closed mindset is talking, argumentative, taking, arrogant, defensive, blaming, rigid; Open mindset is listening, empathetic, giving, humble, collaborative, educating, adaptive.

Pittsburgh- Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel uncovered the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating white matter that improves system-wide communication within the brain.  Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, agreed that the behavioral training can enhance brain function.

How reading rewires your brain for more intelligence and empathy? Reading in fact make us more intelligent, it not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.

If you are not outside your comfort zone, you are not learning. Stability shuts down your brain’s learning centers. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is generally stressful. Uncertainty signals that you’re unsure of your environment, your skills, or both. But uncertainty also signals the brain to kickstart learning. That means crazy, unstable situations might be uncomfortable, but they’re also essential if you want to make the most of your brain. The goal should be inject unpredictability into your life to keep your brain learning.

  • Travel abroad. Learning guaranteed, especially about your own capabilities, likes and values.
  • Changing your routine. Jolt your brain into learning mode, helping you master new skills or see old ideas in a new light.
  • Starting a new project. It might fail but you’re guaranteed to learn something.
  • Searching out weird, new ideas.
  • Talking to people you disagree with. It’s both an empathy and a learning booster.

One way people underestimate themselves is by failing to spend most of their time on things that are really hard for them to do. All should strive to have at least 70 percent of their time doing things that are really difficult. These are the tasks that require the most thought, rigor, and attention, result in the most growth.

In bed this morning I was asking myself;
“what are some of the secrets to success in life?”
I found the answer right there in my very room.
The fan said,”be cool”;
The roof said, “aim high”;
The window said, “see the world”;
The clock said, “every minute is precious”;
The mirror said, “reflect before you act”;
The calendar said, “be up to date”;
The door said, “push hard for your goals”;

Histology

Brain cells can be broken into two groups: neurons and neuroglia.

Close up of a neuron

Neurons, or nerve cells, are the cells that perform all of the communication and processing within the brain. Sensory neurons entering the brain from the peripheral nervous system deliver information about the condition of the body and its surroundings. Most of the neurons in the brain’s gray matter are interneurons, which are responsible for integrating and processing information delivered to the brain by sensory neurons. Interneurons send signals to motor neurons, which carry signals to muscles and glands.

Neuroglia, or glial cells, act as the helper cells of the brain; they support and protect the neurons. In the brain there are four types of glial cells: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells.

  • Astrocytes protect neurons by filtering nutrients out of the blood and preventing chemicals and pathogens from leaving the capillaries of the brain.
  • Oligodendrocytes wrap the axons of neurons in the brain to produce the insulation known as myelin. Myelinated axons transmit nerve signals much faster than unmyelinated axons, so oligodendrocytes accelerate the communication speed of the brain.
  • Microglia act much like white blood cells by attacking and destroying pathogens that invade the brain.
  • Ependymal cells line the capillaries of the choroid plexuses and filter blood plasma to produce cerebrospinal fluid.

The tissue of the brain can be broken down into two major classes: gray matter and white matter.

  • Gray matter is made of mostly unmyelinated neurons, most of which are interneurons. The gray matter regions are the areas of nerve connections and processing.
  • White matter is made of mostly myelinated neurons that connect the regions of gray matter to each other and to the rest of the body. Myelinated neurons transmit nerve signals much faster than unmyelinated axons do. The white matter acts as the information highway of the brain to speed the connections between distant parts of the brain and body.
Digital illustration of spinal cord cross-section.

Physiology of the Brain

Model Brain

The medulla oblongata is a portion of the hindbrain that controls autonomic functions such as breathing, digestionheart and blood vessel function, swallowing, and sneezing. Motor and sensory neurons from the midbrain and forebrain travel through the medulla. As a part of the brainstem, the medulla oblongata helps in the transferring of messages between various parts of the brain and the spinal cord. The medulla contains myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers. Myelinated nerves (white matter) are covered with a myelin sheath composed of lipids and proteins. This sheath insulates axons and promotes a more efficient conduction of nerve impulses than unmyelinated nerve fibers (gray matter). A number of cranial nerve nuclei are located in the gray matter of the medulla oblongata

Metabolism

Despite weighing only about 3 pounds, the brain consumes as much as 20% of the oxygen and glucose taken in by the body. Nervous tissue in the brain has a very high metabolic rate due to the sheer number of decisions and processes taking place within the brain at any given time. Large volumes of blood must be constantly delivered to the brain in order to maintain proper brain function. Any interruption in the delivery of blood to the brain leads very quickly to dizziness, disorientation, and eventually unconsciousness.

Sensory

The brain receives information about the body’s condition and surroundings from all of the sensory receptors in the body. All of this information is fed into sensory areas of the brain, which put this information together to create a perception of the body’s internal and external conditions. Some of this sensory information is autonomic sensory information that tells the brain subconsciously about the condition of the body. Body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure are all autonomic senses that the body receives. Other information is somatic sensory information that the brain is consciously aware of. Touch, sight, sound, and hearing are all examples of somatic senses.

Motor Control

Our brain directly controls almost all movement in the body. A region of the cerebral cortex known as the motor area sends signals to the skeletal muscles to produce all voluntary movements. The basal nuclei of the cerebrum and gray matter in the brainstem help to control these movements subconsciously and prevent extraneous motions that are undesired. The cerebellum helps with the timing and coordination of these movements during complex motions. Finally, smooth muscle tissue, cardiac muscle tissue, and glands are stimulated by motor outputs of the autonomic regions of the brain.

Processing

Once sensory information has entered the brain, the association areas of the brain go to work processing and analyzing this information. Sensory information is combined, evaluated, and compared to prior experiences, providing the brain with an accurate picture of its conditions. The association areas also work to develop plans of action that are sent to the brain’s motor regions in order to produce a change in the body through muscles or glands. Association areas also work to create our thoughts, plans, and personality.

Learning and Memory

The brain needs to store many different types of information that it receives from the senses and that it develops through thinking in the association areas. Information in the brain is stored in a few different ways depending on its source and how long it is needed. Our brain maintains short-term memory to keep track of the tasks in which the brain is currently engaged. Short-term memory is believed to consist of a group of neurons that stimulate each other in a loop to keep data in the brain’s memory. New information replaces the old information in short-term memory within a few seconds or minutes, unless the information gets moved to long-term memory.

Long-term memory is stored in the brain by the hippocampus. The hippocampus transfers information from short-term memory to memory-storage regions of the brain, particularly in the cerebral cortex of the temporal lobes. Memory related to motor skills (known as procedural memory) is stored by the cerebellum and basal nuclei.

Homeostasis

The brain acts as the body’s control center by maintaining the homeostasis of many diverse functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and hunger. The brainstem and the hypothalamus are the brain structures most concerned with homeostasis.

In the brainstem, the medulla oblongata contains the cardiovascular center that monitors the levels of dissolved carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood, along with blood pressure. The cardiovascular center adjusts the heart rate and blood vessel dilation to maintain healthy levels of dissolved gases in the blood and to maintain a healthy blood pressure. The medullary rhythmicity center of the medulla monitors oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood and adjusts the rate of breathing to keep these levels in balance.

The hypothalamus controls the homeostasis of body temperature, blood pressure, sleep, thirst, and hunger. Many autonomic sensory receptors for temperature, pressure, and chemicals feed into the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus processes the sensory information that it receives and sends the output to autonomic effectors in the body such as sweat glands, the heart, and the kidneys.

Sleep

While sleep may seem to be a time of rest for the brain, this organ is actually extremely active during sleep. The hypothalamus maintains the body’s 24 hour biological clock, known as the circadian clock. When the circadian clock indicates that the time for sleep has arrived, it sends signals to the reticular activating system of the brainstem to reduce its stimulation of the cerebral cortex. Reduction in the stimulation of the cerebral cortex leads to a sense of sleepiness and eventually leads to sleep.

In a state of sleep, the brain stops maintaining consciousness, reduces some of its sensitivity to sensory input, relaxes skeletal muscles, and completes many administrative functions. These administrative functions include the consolidation and storage of memory, dreaming, and development of nervous tissue.

There are two main stages of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). During REM sleep, the body becomes paralyzed while the eyes move back and forth quickly. Dreaming is common during REM sleep and it is believed that some memories are stored during this phase. NREM sleep is a period of slow eye movement or no eye movement, culminating in a deep sleep of low brain electrical activity. Dreaming during NREM sleep is rare, but memories are still processed and stored during this time.

Reflexes

A reflex is a fast, involuntary reaction to a form of internal or external stimulus. Many reflexes in the body are integrated in the brain, including the pupillary light reflex, coughing, and sneezing. Many reflexes protect the body from harm. For instance, coughing and sneezing clear the airways of the lungs. Other reflexes help the body respond to stimuli, such as adjusting the pupils to bright or dim light. All reflexes happen quickly by bypassing the control centers of the cerebral cortex and integrating in the lower regions of the brain such as the midbrain or limbic system.

Prepared by Tim Taylor, Anatomy and Physiology Instructor