If I were to ask you the question ‘where is the most complex phenomena in the known universe found?’ you would most likely give me an answer that had something to do with deep space. This is where most people’s minds automatically go, because space and its workings are still such an enigma to our still primitive species at this point in history. And rightly so. Space is fascinating stuff.
But there is no part of it (that we’re currently aware of) that actually qualifies as the most complex phenomena in the known universe. The answer is much closer to home. Much closer. You’re using it right now to comprehend what you’re reading.
Yup, that fat, fleshy lump of matter sitting in your skull is actually the most baffling enigma known to humankind. Packed with a nearly incomprehensible number of neurons (100 billion, give or take a few) that comprise a neural network so complex it would leave the internet scratching its head, it’s still unknown whether it’s the seat of consciousness itself or a receptor for it. Yet without the individual memories and personality traits it holds, or its seat as commander for the myriad conscious and subconscious physical activities taking place in our bodies endlessly, we would be nothing.
Despite all of this, and despite centuries of rigorous study, we still don’t fully understand it. The question of whether we ever will or not is an entirely different matter. But what we do know, however, reflects just how amazing and adaptable it is.
1) It Contains the Most Powerful Psychedelic Known to Man
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is the most potent psychedelic known to man, lasting only around 30 minutes but taking many on a journey that they describe as akin to entering another dimension where space and time become one. Amazingly, this psychedelic chemical is located in our pineal gland, the tiny organ located at the center of our brain that is also referred to as our “third eye” due to the belief of some older, mystical schools of thought that it is the connection between the spiritual and physical worlds.
Although DMT is theorized to be so tightly stored inside the confines of the pineal gland so as to not disrupt our daily activities through its release, some believe that it is released during dream states and is connected to the occurrence of near-death experiences.
2) Many of Its Memories Are Altered or Even Completely False
Over the course of your life you accumulate thousands of memories, some that you can probably still envision today as if they took place yesterday. Yet despite the clarity of such moments, they are actually extremely unreliable – the consolidation of memories is influenced greatly by factors such as emotion, motivation, cues and context, all of which can affect their accuracy.
Every time you recall a memory, you are stimulating the formation of new connections between the neurons in your brain. For accurate memories, this process will help you actively reconstruct and remember the past, but for inaccurate memories, you are only solidifying their false nature. In fact, psychologists have successfully implanted false memories into the human brain under experimental conditions.
3) It Makes Decisions for Us Before We Even Realize It
Despite the random nature of the universe, we all like to think that we’re in control of our lives to some extent. Well, you might want to reconsider – it turns out that most of our decisions are made subconsciously.
How exactly is this possible? Research shows that our brain is subconsciously aware of all of our decisions before we consciously make them, meaning it comes up with solutions to the problems and questions that we face on a day-to-day basis before we even know it. The good news is, other research shows that our subconscious minds are wired to make the best possible decisions for us, so it looks like we’re in good hands after all.
4) Doorways Can Destroy Its Memories
You find yourself in a room with no memory of how or why you ended up there – sound familiar? Although you might have seen this plot in a number of movies or fictional stories, it’s actually not impossible. In fact, researchers say that doorways themselves act as “event boundaries” that cue the brain that a new scene has started, prompting it to file previous memories away and cause a lapse in memory. It sounds strange, but these event boundaries can actually help our brains construct mental timelines in order to keep track of where and when specific events happened.
5) You Can Trick It Into Perceiving Time More Slowly
Ever wish you could slow down time? Well, it turns out that you can – sort of. When our brains receive information from the external environment, they filter it before we are even aware of it. With familiar information, this process occurs extremely fast, making the process of organizing the information much faster and more efficient. It also means that when you’re stuck in a routine or living the same lifestyle, you’re perception of time will cause you to perceive time as going by faster than it really is.
How do you slow it down? When the brain receives new information, it needs to be filtered and organized into a form that we can understand, a process that takes longer than it does with familiar information. Surrounding yourself with new environments and experiences essentially slows down the information organization process that takes place prior to perception and in turn makes us feel as if time is moving slower.
6) It Has an Almost Unlimited Storage Capacity
Unlike computer hard drives, which have set amounts of storage capacity, the human brain’s is almost unlimited. In fact, it is probably impossible that anyone will fill its capacity in a lifetime due to the unique way that it stores memories in order of importance.
Making space in the brain isn’t as simple as “deleting” memories – the human brain doesn’t store memories in one specific place, instead using a combination of activity in various areas to create their blueprints. Reactivation of these blueprints creates new neuronal connections that in turn solidify and sometimes even alter the memory. It is this unique storage process that gives it its almost unlimited storage space.
Over the years, we’ve learned a great deal about the human brain and continue to reveal even more about its structure and function. However, there are many questions that still linger: Why do we need sleep? Why do we dream? What is consciousness? Whether we ever find the answers to these questions, there’s no disputing the uncanny nature of the human brain and the amazing things that we do know about it.