The “Soup” & “Brew” Of The Connected Brain

The brain is about “process,” not “parts.”

Just because some research assistant has memorized a bunch of fMRI scans doesn’t mean he understands the brain or how it works.

MRI scans, PET scans, and EEG’s don’t begin to tell the whole story about the brain.

An EEG, at best, is a topical read of brain activity –a look at symptomology not etiology.  The “soup” or “brew” of the brain is more about chemistry than parts, more about proteins and neuropeptides than fixed diagrams.

What is important are the PROCESSES of how the brain works.  The brain is not just a collection of parts that do this thing or that thing.  The brain is one total organism that works in sync and in relationship to is so-called “parts.”  That’s why neuroplasticity is so amazing.

There are many routes to many things – and creativity is about those routes around any given thing.  Our neurobiology and our epigenetic associations are busy showing us how flexible we are and how much we are evolving.

The vast potential of the brain is in its associations (internal and external) –one neuron getting to know its neighbor and long nerve strands associating new and old impulses for a new way to see and know reality.  We are on the threshold of just the beginning of understanding how all of this transmission works.

This is the new frontier, and even a functional MRI only shows pieces and parts of these totally amazing processes.  Right now we only understand a piece of what we see there.  Even fMRI scans do not tell the whole story, by any means.

Areas of the brain do seem to be responsible for certain general functions. However, they are joined to the brain as a whole, and all the parts affect every other part while the right hemisphere is managing the picture and function of the whole.

Dysfunction in one part of the brain may well be related to chemical processes in a whole other part of the brain’s overall functioning.   In the not too distant future, a medication that is ingested to be awash in the whole brain will be obsolete in favor of some manner of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the landscape of the brain, not firing properly and instead affecting those smaller sites with a more exacting intervention.

So don’t buy into “Simple Simon” explanations of this or that part of the brain doing this or that thing.

When Gabby Gifford was shot in the brain, her therapists resurrected the music she sang and played as a child, and then sang the lyrics to arouse the right hemisphere memories that were stored in ways we don’t yet even really begin to understand.

But just consider this for a start.  It is not that the right hemisphere does just this and the left hemisphere does just that.  Everything works with everything else.  You are not more “right or left hemisphere” oriented.  You couldn’t draw without the left hemisphere, and you couldn’t do math without your right hemisphere involved.  This is what we call lateralization in the brain, and it is a fundamental process in the brain.  However, I should add that, in the case of a hemispherectomy (the loss of a brain hemisphere) there can be enormous compensation by the other hemisphere.  Infants who have lost the right hemisphere of the brain have learned language with the left.  The brain, nor are we, are as fixed as we might like to believe.

Consider this path of learning in the brain.  Data is taken in through an initial sort by the right frontal lobe (the first piece of the ADD mystery).  It is then transferred to the left frontal lobe, which manages routinization and novelty. That means the second “sort” starts to file new information in new places and send old information to other parts of the brain to which it relates –always, always more than one place.

While information is going to the left hemisphere, the right hemisphere is always taking a kind of picture of what is going on –it is the “NSA of the brain,” and more vast than any computer that we can imagine.

While all of this happens, if there is new learning, a hemisphere will give a squirt of dopamine to reinforce that new learning.

The “soup” or “brew” of the brain, which is chemical in nature, is something like an unimaginable hard drive storing bits of information about the same thing, with a million associations to other things to enable thought and reasoning.

There are areas of the brain that seem to be about this or that, but there are a thousand connections and associations to them.

So what is the take-away?  Don’t believe any claims that you can solve any problem in a day or two.  You can’t.  The brain doesn’t work like that.  WHAT YOU CAN DO is learn to PLAY THE PROCESS and that is this:

Every thought you think and every feeling you feel is building your brain, which is unfolding new structures of reasoning.  We do know that the brain runs best and most healthily on neuropositivity, in an UpSpiral.  Your brain is made to create, to reason, to solve, to grow, to discover, to invent, and to delight in what draws it more and more into its activity.

Let’s review this in a world that believes in affirmations.  Every thought and every feeling is an affirmation building the nature of your brain.

This began as an infant, when you were building the neuropathways that would manage your mother’s breast for food, and you were learning to breathe at the same time (the core of your vagal tone.)

Just think, you were already, even when you were breast feeding, learning to do something like “chew bubble gum and walk at the same time.”

In a manner of speaking, your sense of balance and coordination, even how you would be social, was developing from the start of your earliest perceptions of safety and threat, inherently present in just learning to eat and breathe at the same time.

And all the while the processes of your developing brain are unfolding. And they are processes, not static functions of discrete brain parts.

All of that early development is still developing, though.  You have a spectacular ability for attention and focus. Grow it by realizing that you can manage what you think and what you feel.  These neuropathways grow and develop until you die.

The brain is always unfolding and always renewing, if we simply will let it.

We start people in our Emotional Gym, five ways the brain works best. Gratitude, peace, love, joy, and hope are “states of mind” that allow for greater integrity and tell the brain: be curious, be interested, connect to the world around you.

If the brain could talk to us about using it, it would say, “I am yours to use for goodness and in the pursuit of your goodness, most in line with the nature of your real values. I can unfold in structures of knowing and perceiving that will give you greater and greater satisfaction.”

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute