Itching brain. Gods becoming mice.

Itching is a highly contagious behavior. When we see someone scratch, we’re likely to feel itchy, too. A research shows contagious itching is hardwired in the brain.

For this study, Chen’s team put a mouse in an enclosure with a computer screen. The researchers then played a video that showed another mouse scratching.

“Within a few seconds, the mouse in the enclosure would start scratching, too,” Chen said. “This was very surprising because mice are known for their poor vision. They use smell and touch to explore areas, so we didn’t know whether a mouse would notice a video. Not only did it see the video, it could tell that the mouse in the video was scratching”.

Next, the researchers identified a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a brain region that controls when animals fall asleep or wake up. The SCN was highly active after the mouse watched the video of the scratching mouse. When the mouse saw other mice scratching – in the video and when placed near scratching littermates – the brain’s SCN would release a chemical substance called GRP (gastrin-releasing peptide). In 2007, Chen’s team identified GRP as a key transmitter of itch signals between the skin and the spinal cord.

“The mouse doesn’t see another mouse scratching and then think it might need to scratch, too,” Chen said. “Instead, its brain begins sending out itch signals using GRP as a messenger”.

Chen’s team also used various methods to block GRP or the receptor it binds to on neurons, while maintaining the ability to scratch normally when exposed to itch-inducing substances. Chen believes the contagious itch behavior the mice engaged in is something the animals can’t control. “It’s an innate behavior and an instinct,” he said. “We’ve been able to show that a single chemical and a single receptor are all that’s necessary to mediate this particular behavior. The next time you scratch or yawn in response to someone else doing it, remember it’s really not a choice nor a psychological response; it’s hardwired into your brain. (1)

So “the brain” sent the signals. Without the mouse even “seeing” (how do we know?) or even “wanting” (how do we know?) to do anything. The brain “sees” (what?!?) the other mouse scratching and decides on its own.


Are we so much loving the idea of the brain controlling what we do that we are ready to believe into a brain which does things on its own without even an optical stimulus? Are we so much intoxicated by the idea of us not having free will, of us being just slaves to matter, that we are ready to attribute abilities of conscious beings to lifeless substances?

We believe into an ever-seeing brain with a “free will” of its own.

And yet we despise the idea of an ever seeing free will spirit.

We are what we want to be.

We were gods.

And we have chosen to be mice.

Now starting to feel a bit itchy…

Author: skakos

Spiros Kakos is a thinker located in Greece. He has been Chief Editor of Harmonia Philosophica since its inception. In the past he has worked as a senior technical advisor for many years. In his free time he develops software solutions and contributes to the open source community. He has also worked as a phD researcher in the Advanced Materials sector related to the PCB industry. He likes reading and writting, not only philosophy but also in general. He believes that science and religion are two sides of the same coin and is profoundly interested in Religion and Science philosophy. His philosophical work is mainly concentrated on an effort to free thinking of "logic" and reconcile all philosophical opinions under the umbrella of the "One" that Parmenides - one of the first thinkers - visualized. The "Harmonia Philosophica" articles program is the tool that will accomplish that. Life's purpose is to be defeated by greater things. And the most important things in life are illogical. We must fight the dogmatic belief in "logic" if we are to stay humans... Credo quia absurdum!

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