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    The lie of our own brain
    By Arturo Pèrez-Arteaga | November 25th 2012 10:59 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Arturo

    Arturo Pérez-Arteaga M.D. was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1964. His Medical School and Post-Graduate in Ophthalmology were studied at Mexico

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    The only instrument that we have to achieve a comprehension of the environment and our selves as a part of it, is the prefrontal cortex. 

    The frontal lobes give us the voluntary movement, the decision-making, the problem solving structure, and future planning process. They are divided in the prefrontal cortex, the premotor area and the motor area. The premotor and motor areas of the frontal lobes contain neurons that control the execution of voluntary muscle movement, while the prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality expression, the comprehension of material concepts and ideas and the planning of complex cognitive behaviors.

    It is within the prefrontal cortex where are able to understand concepts (abstract or not), to make planning and to see our selves in the near and far future. The picture is very nice it self since a simple point of view; evolution gave us the possibility to "understand", but unfortunately what we are "understanding" is not necessarily true. If we want to be "near a legitimate concept" we should take in count how the information finally is able to "get inside" our frontal lobes; the source (and not only the processing course inside the frontal lobes), can be it self the cause, of a big mistake in the interpretation of data, and so a big mistake in what we learn and how we see our selves and our environment, and this is the main point of this article. 

    Sources or information to prefrontal cortex arrive from different pathways that we can divide, in a simply manner in four sources: 

    1. External Receptors: Those who are in contact with the "external world" in one pole, and with the afferent neuron in the other; those cells who are able to transform a change of energy of the environment to a nervous stimulus (as a simply concept, the sensitive organs). 

    Unfortunately each species has its own range of "change of energy" that is capable to transform in a nervous impulse; this range for each species is call in neurosciences Sensory Universe. Through this point of view we have severe limitations as humans. Just as an example in the vision field, it is widely known that we can only perceive the range of 390 to 750 nm of the electromagnetic spectrum; it corresponds to a very small part of it, and we must accept that some other species are able to see light frequencies outside "our light spectrum". So, since this source of the External Receptors, we have severe limitations to see clearly "what´s going on" in our environment. 

    2. Internal Receptors: They gave us for example the position of our body in the space, the sense of muscle contraction, the sense of visceral pain and the sense of defecation, between many others. They are also programmed by a Nature Selection process, to catch and send to the prefrontal cortex, only the information that is needed to survive. So many things are currently happening in our "internal environment" that we are not able to feel. We can not feel the glomerular filtration of kidneys and the liberation of insulin from the pancreas, as some easy examples. This is also a source of limitation to see "what´s going on" in our internal environment. Prefrontal cortex is not observant, during many times, of what is happening inside the self organism.

    3. Other parts of the brain: This is a tremendous concept. Brain is all times working, even during sleep, and we can make awareness of what is happening inside our own brain in a very small amount of proceedings, just like in the external and internal receptors. To "feel" what is happening in other parts of the brain is not programmed by evolution, because it is not needing for living, in fact, to "feel every brain activity" can not be compatible with life; not the process it self, just the fact of make awareness of the process. So we are liberating a lot of pre-hormones by the hypothalamus and we can not feel it, but we are able to feel the effects and to guide our behaviour because of them, without make awareness of what is guiding to us. Prefrontal cortex is only aware of what´s happening in the neurovegetative system, the temporal lobes, the limbic system and some other associative areas of the cerebral cortex, in just a very small amount.

    My daughter told to me, when she was 7 y.o. that she will never will kiss a boyfriend, but hormones, after the time, became with the truth. I like a lot to say to my medical students at university that Vegetative Nervous System tell us "the what", while Somatic Nervous System (including our "beloved" and overestimated prefrontal cortex) is just able to be so smart to tell us " the how". Here comes the real trouble for human perceptions. For example, if we´re experiencing hallucinations, they can be just discharges of the temporal lobe, but we can feel it as they are completely true, just like views of surrealistic qualities when sleeping. They are happening like electric activity inside the temporal lobe, but when processing from frontal lobes, they can be perceived as completely realistic. 

    4. Culture: Unfortunately we can not escape to our education, and at the end, even the science investigator is tempt to filter the results of an research since the point of view if his education. We are not only more that humans and we would like to prove, that what we have learned is true. If this happens to the scientist you can imagine what is currently happening in the "real world" to the millions of people that do not have scientific education. Unfortunately science sometimes give us exactly the response that we do not like to have, because it is against what we have believed for many years of our lives. Scientist should accept this condition if he is able to call him self a scientist.

    Remember, science is the method it self, not the results. Science is not an abstract concept; is a method of thinking, capture and analyze the information. It is at least the best we have, since the point of view that we are very far away to perceive reality it self; I mean to perceive as a true a false experience. It is only the method it self what can save us from our own perception, given by our prefrontal cortex. With the scientific method we are not having only comprehension of the universe, but also of our selves. We should see our brains as a by product of evolution, and not as a pre-designed organ with specific objectives. It contains great efficiencies but also many deficienices, since the point of view of understanding. We should understand that these deficiencies are there not because of our volition; they are present just because in some times of our evolutive story were useful for survive under some particular environmental conditions. Because of our very important limitations we should learn that our brain is programmed for suvirval and to comprehend only what is needed to understand for these survival purposes. 

    It gave us very calming responses, even they are not completely true.... Like David Hume said many years before the establishment of Neurosciences: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

    We should work hardly.......

    Comments

    SynapticNulship
    Because of our very important limitations we should learn that our brain is programmed for suvirval and to comprehend only what is needed to understand for these survival purposes.
    There is perhaps an even greater lie as far as information that animals (e.g. humans) are aware of: our representations may be merely arbitrary interfaces. And by "interface" I mean an interface to reality (even though the body is of course itself part of reality). Evolution does not necessarily select for veridical representation.