We have the biggest brain relative to our body weight compared with other animals; yes we are a “special” animal too. The brain uses about 20 percent of our body energy although it´s only 2% of our total body mass. So, that’s pretty high. When there is an energy shortage it will reduce energy to all other parts of our body first to keep in control. Our brain produces 0.085 watts per hour when only 1 percent of our brain is active, we could charge a mobile phone in 70 hours. Suppose we were using 20 percent or even more, that will generate a lot of energy and brainwaves. But how does it work?
During pregnancy, the fetus goes through a growth cycle that we can compare with the course of evolution, but then in 9 months. In the first 8 weeks, the three main parts of the brain begin to grow together with the spine. The brainstem (reptile brain) is the first to be completely formed. It is responsible for the most important vital functions such as breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, blood pressure, and sleep rhythm. It reacts to signals received threw our sensors like ears, skin, mouth, nose, and eyes and will respond upon them by reflex (baby kicks). The emotional part of the brain starts in the sixth month and possesses only primary emotions when the baby is born. As we can see when children grow up, they need a lot of practice until they can, more or less, control their emotions. Even as adults we still struggle. The same applies to our cognitive part of the brain. The brain cells are there, but not filled with much experience or how to act. Despite what many people think our brain is not able to multi-task. We cannot read a book and do complex calculations. A especially in the beginning this results in limited ‘processor’ time for the cognitive part of our brain because the emotional part consumes most of it. During the time this balance will shift but it will take up to 25 years before the cognitive part of our brain is full-formed. This means that it is fully integrated with the other parts of our brain as a ship’s captain.
Physically at the moment of birth, our brain contains all nerve cells (gray mass) it will ever have. Inheritance is partly responsible for this result (see intelligence). By storing all experiences and learning processes in the nerve cells, the required functions and structures are created. For this, nerve fibers (white matter) are used to make new associative connections. During this process, the brain will grow and at the age of seven, it will be fully grown. For example, if a child has not learned to speak well in the first seven years, it will have difficulties with it for the rest of its life. This means that the first seven years of our lives are of great importance. After this, the nerve cells that are not connected will disappear. The brain will create nerve fibers to make more associative connections between the existing nerve cells. This process continues until the age of 25, then all major functions and structures have been formed.
Our big brain (where the cognitive part is located) exists out of two parts, the left, and right side. The left side controls the right side of our body and the right part on the left side of our body. The popular opinion is that left is for logic and right for creativity. This, however, is not true. There is a function separation. Language, for example, residence in the left part. So yes left and right contain different functions but we use the left and right part together regardless of whether we are making music or doing calculations. However, it is still important that we exercise logic as well as the creativity of our brains. It will improve our ability to find solutions for all the challenges we meet in life.
The only way our brain can receive information is through our senses. Its primary function is to make sense of all that information. So we don’t see with our eyes or hear with our ears but with our brain. From most information (about 90 percent) we are not even aware that we see or hear them. Our subconscious mind processes all this information to create a coherent and meaningful worldview. This is necessary to have a good response that will benefit our safety and wellbeing. We think that what our eyes see is like a picture taken by a camera. This is not the case, different parts of our eyes register and focus on different aspects, like lines, edges, color, etc… This happens because our brain tries to find patterns that match the ones in our memory. By doing so it can give a fast and proper response. After that our brain puts all of it together into a coherent picture. This picture, however, doesn’t reflect reality as a picture from a camera, it highlights and focuses on the parts it thinks are important. The point I am trying to make is that our mind does more than just trying to understand what comes through our senses. It will fill in the parts missing or change what it doesn’t understand so that it becomes meaningful.
With our ears, it’s not much different. It actually ignores certain frequencies in order to understand the spoken word better. That’s why people from Asia, for example; Japanese, can’t hear the difference between an ‘L’ and ‘R’ in our western language. Because they can’t hear these characters, they also have difficulties to say them and understand them.
This means we can not unconditionally trust the way our brain interprets our sensors. Occasionally, it also fails us by not processing them at all. This happens for example when we turn our focus inside to remember something. Temporarily the information coming from our sensors is partly ignored. We can witness this when we see a magician on stage stealing a person’s watch, wallet, mobile, and even his glasses. By touching and asking quick small questions (building a bit pressure as well) to get the victim to focus inside on recollecting memories. At that moment most of our sensor information is ignored.
Knowing all this you start to wonder, can I trust my brain. I think it’s good to realize this and reflect what you have been “thinking” as being seen or heard, especially when your reaction could have consequences.
What we can conclude is that our brain is not smart by itself. It needs our conscious and subconsciousness to interpret the information coming from our senses (the reality)