Monday, January 10, 2011

The Human Brain

The human brain the most complicated multifaceted organ in the human body and composed of over 150 different types of cells -- the largest number of diverse cell types found in any single organ. It is the most adaptable and the most complex single object in the known universe. If a more complicated entity exists on Earth, no one has broken its confidence.

At the drop of a hat, most bodily systems and organs quickly divulge their fundamental duties during the most cursory examination. Watching the repetitive expanding and contracting of a muscle reveals its primary purpose. The pipe-like arteries and vessels that enter and exit a blood-pumping heart, leave little wonder as to the heart’s basic function. Our lungs inflate and deflate in perfect synchrony with each breath, as we respectively inhale and exhale –no mystery there either. Each of these organs honors a “transparent anatomy policy,” where vital organs avoid any disguise of their labors.

However, inside the human cranium lies a brain whose inner operations have remained tightly classified secrets housed in the best-protection (hair, skin, muscles, and solid skull bones) our bodies are capable of constructing.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), a leading thinker of his day, was an advocate of a cardiocentric view of human learning. The heart at that time was believed to be central to all cognitive responsibilities including higher intelligence. Taking a backseat to the heart in this theory, the brain was relegated to the more humble undertaking of cooling the warm blood circulated by the heart – demoting the brain to a menial “radiator” status. Contemporary phraseology continues to reflect vestiges of that early perspective.

Nearly 2400 years later, we still refer to successfully memorized content as information we know “by heart.” However, it is the hippocampus that serves as the primary brain structure that permits us to learn from experience based on stored memories.

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