Chapter three begins to explain to us how our brain works.
The brain is the most complicated system in the universe. Yep, you heard it right, THE UNIVERSE. Not that my ego needed much padding, but it seems that I have the most intricate and complex hard drive, know to human kind, sitting right here up in my noggin. Sweet.
Much of what we know about how our brains work, and really how our whole body works as a result of that mushy 3 pound chunk of flesh, we discovered pretty recently. I found it funny that the ancient Egyptians thought it was our heart that called the shots, hence the saying "I know it by heart".
From the reading, the nuts and bolts of it seem to be this: Our brain is a super computer that tells us how to function. It does this through communication dependent on our brain's neurons and neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters are the neuron's messengers, telling our nervous system how to function and exercise control over our body. It is this incredible process that provides the physiological bases of our thoughts, emotions, actions and behaviors.
I really appreciate that our nervous system is not set in stone. It has the ability to change through growth and learning. In fact, during a process called pruning, which happens during early development, over 70% of those 100 billion neurons die, removing unnecessary lines of communication, leaving us with a more efficient brain. This is our brain's way maturing during adolescence and early adulthood. This explains a lot of the decisions I made when I was a teenager. It is nice to know it was actually because I was operating a Beta version of my brain. Now that I have discarded all of those unneeded neurons, I am operating 2.0, and the decisions I make are slightly better (once in a while).
What I found most interesting in this chapter was that the massive change our brains made around the time we decided to move on from being apes. In the span of only a few million years, one small part of the human genome changed 70 times faster than any other area, resulting in a complete overhaul of our cortex. Our brains tripled in size! (Oh, and, by the way, we don't know why this happened, but, it is pretty awesome that it did). It was like there was this part of our brain just waiting to be stimulated, just one ape to decide to think outside the box, and once that happened, BAM! Better make room up there cranium, we have big plans. Again, all this happened in just a few million years, of the earths 4.5 billion year history. That is sort of like growing a third eye during one split second of a day. Pretty major event.
I also realized from this reading how easy it is for us to take all of this for granted. We sometimes forget what an amazing gift our brains are. Like no other living being in the world, we have the capability to think in unique ways and create fantastic ideas that can result in truly incredible achievements. We don't always make the best use of it (I'm thinking Snuggies... and Farmville), but when we do... (The Sistine Chapel... space shuttles, The Beatles....) Damn! Ain't it good to be a human?