The Great Frontier
When I was growing up I had great plans to travel the world. I read lots of books about historical and contemporary explorers. Star Trek was my favorite after-school show. I’ve always through it would be thrilling to discover what has not been previously known. But, as it turned out, except for a couple long distance bike rides I never sailed for faraway lands.
Since completing my college degree in “Art in Mental Health” at U-Mass Amherst earlier this year, I’ve rediscovered my thrill for discovery. I’ve found that the current explorations of the brain and the mind are the new frontier. With neural imaging technologies, researchers are now able to look inside brains of living people—to see them in action, in real time.
Research is also showing us that the brain is more than the three pounds of Jello in our heads. The brain really needs to be considered as a “brain system” to accurately understand its function. Our brain system includes the spinal nerves, as well as the neural plexuses around the heart and in the gut as well.
In 1637 Rene Descartes famously said, “I think therefore I am.” This is the beginning of an inaccurate mind/body split that has persisted to current times. Now research shows us that we think and we feel in a constant dance of seeking homeostasis.
Neuroscientist researcher Antonio Damasio explains it this way: “What then was Descartes error? ‘I think therefore I am.’ Taken literally, the statement illustrates precisely the opposite of what I believe to be true about the origins of mind and about the relation between mind and body” (Damasio, 1994). Damasio goes on to explain that a thought, at its inception, starts as a felt-sense in the body. (Damasio, 2010).
Being aware of this felt-sense is a part of using our total brain system—a system designed to perceive and express our whole selves.
Other researchers are mapping out specific details. Louann Brizendine, M.D., has done extensive research on the differences between the male and female brain. The female brain has better developed language circuitry than males. On average women use 20,000 words a day and men only 7,000.
Brizendine also shares: “Just as women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion while men have a small country road, Men have Chicago’s O’Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex whereas women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes.
“That probably explains why eighty-five percent of twenty-to thirty-year-old males think about sex every fifty-two seconds and women think about it once a day—or up to once every three or four hours on their most fertile days. This makes for interesting interactions between the sexes.” (Bowden, 2007).
Is it any wonder relationship is so challenging? We certainly were not born knowing, but we can learn how to relate to that other gender.
Another remarkable discovery is that the brain can rebuild itself, if we take care of it. We are not stuck with the brain we have!
The brain tip of this week is “use it or lose it.” That means no matter what your age, it’s important to learn something new. Try a new art medium. Or perhaps learn a new musical instrument. Or a foreign language. Or maybe even ballroom dancing with your sweetheart.
By putting the brain through its paces, new dendrite connections grow. That is youth, secretly hidden between your ears. There is more to you than you know.
What this great frontier of inner space is showing us is we have amazing possibilities. I’m grateful and excited to be part of this great exploration.
Moment by moment. Breath by breath. Douglas.
Bowden-Butler, T. (2007). 50 Psychology Classics. New York, NY. MJF Books.
Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes Error. New York, NY. Penguin Group.
Damasio, A. (2010). Self Comes to Mind. New York, NY. Pantheon Books.