At a small eatery in Seville, Spain, Alan Jasanoff had his first experience with brains — wrapped in eggs and served with potatoes. At the time, he was more interested in finding a good, affordable meal than contemplating the sheer awesomeness of the organ he was eating. Years later, Jasanoff began studying the brain as part of his training as a neuroscientist, and he went on, like so many others, to revere it. It is said, after all, to be the root of our soul and consciousness. But today, Jasanoff has yet another view: He has come to see our awe of the organ as a seriously flawed way of thinking, and even a danger to society.
In The Biological Mind, Jasanoff,
neuroscientist at MIT, refers to the romanticized view of the brain — its
separateness and superiority to the body and its depiction as almost supernatural
— as the “cerebral mystique”. Such an attitude has been fueled, in part, by
images that depict the brain without any connection to the body or by analogies
that compare the brain to a computer. Admittedly, the brain does have
tremendous computing power. But Jasanoff’s goal is to show that the brain
doesn’t work as a distinct, mystical entity, but as a ball of flesh awash with
fluids and innately in tune with the rest of the body and the environment.
“Self” doesn’t just come from the brain, he explains, but also from the
interactions of chemicals from our bodies with everything else around us.
To make his case, Jasanoff offers an
extensive yet entertaining review of the schools of thought and representations
of the brain in the media that led to the rise of the cerebral mystique,
especially during the last few decades. He then tears down those ideas using
contrary examples from recent research, along with engaging anecdotes. For
instance, his clear, lively writing reveals how our emotions, such as the fight-or-flight
response and the suite of thoughts and actions associated with stress, provide
strong evidence for a brain-body connection. Exercise’s effect on the brain
also supports this notion. Even creativity isn’t sacred, often stemming from
repeated interactions with those around us. (1)
An interesting viewpoint. But a very
It is not just the brain connected to
It is your body connected with others.
It is your mind connected with
Would you be afraid without your
Could you speak without your food?
Would you dream without your heart?
Could you cry without your daughter?
Your soul is connected with the cosmos.
Yes, you are your body. And your mind. And your brain. And your heart. And your mother. And your children. And everything around you. You are these things and these things are you. Look at the stars in the vast cold space. They are there. And you are here. And yet, you wouldn’t be able to fall in love without them. Look at the stars in the sky. You are here. And they are there. And yet, they couldn’t even shine without you…