The Human Brain
Center of the Nervous System

The Human Brain
Center of the Nervous System

Complex and deeply mysterious, the human brain is an odyssey unto itself. Take this journey into the inner workings of the mind with the guidance of scientist Dr. David Suzuki, the host of this riveting Discovery Channel documentary.

This series explores the way the brain evolves from birth to adulthood; how memory works; how humans recover from brain injury; and the origins of creativity and identity.

The Brain takes viewers on a four-part journey exploring the evolution of the human brain, how different parts of the brain perform certain functions, how chemicals affect our behavior and emotions, and the ways the brain can compensate for certain deficiencies.

It uses computer animation to explain the roles of cells, neurons, endorphins, the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, and the hypothalamus in transmitting, receiving, and storing information.

Most interesting are the real-life examples shown of people who've endured Alzheimer's disease, strokes, autism, and various disorders and the effects those conditions have had on their lives (and the ways their brains have responded).

Matter over Mind, the human brain appeared on earth some five million years ago. It took just a few million more to fully mature, a mere blink on the geological time scale.

The Brain Our Universe Within - Memory

Structurally, anatomically, the human brain has not changed much in about two hundred thousand years. It is the same brain used by the first Homo sapiens to walk the planet.

But what has evolved is the mind. And it is this inner universe that has so mystified and beguiled us. The mind, together with the brain, forms the most complex system known to man.

At the dawn of the 21st Century, we are slowly crossing the borders of this last frontier, so that we may understand better who we are why we create and invent, why our fears haunt us, our thoughts liberate us, where we prove our free will, our sense of self and express our inner voice.

New mind-imaging techniques are giving researchers a tool for mapping the mind. Never before could we look this closely inside the living brain.

Understanding the relationship between the brain and the mind is a challenging problem both philosophically and scientifically.

The most straightforward scientific evidence that there is a strong relationship between the physical brain matter and the mind is the impact physical alterations to the brain have on the mind, such as with traumatic brain injury and psychoactive drug use.

The Brain Our Universe Within - Evolution

The mind-body problem is one of the central issues in the history of philosophy, which asks us to consider if the brain and the mind are identical, partially distinct, or related in some unknown way.

There are three major schools of thought concerning the answer: dualism, materialism, and idealism.

Dualism holds that the mind exists independently of the brain; materialism holds that mental phenomena are identical to neuronal phenomena; and idealism holds that only mental phenomena exist.

In addition to the philosophical questions, the relationship between mind and brain involves a high number of scientific questions, including understanding the relationship between mental activity and brain activity, the exact mechanisms by which drugs influence cognition, and the neural correlates of consciousness.

Through most of history, many philosophers found it inconceivable that cognition could be implemented by a physical substance such as brain tissue (that is neurons and synapses).

Philosophers such as Patricia Churchland posit that the drug-mind interaction indicates an intimate connection between the brain and the mind, not that the two are the same entity.

Descartes, who thought extensively about mind-brain relationships, found it possible to explain reflexes and other simple behaviors in mechanistic terms, although he did not believe that complex thought, and language in particular, could be explained by reference to the physical brain alone.

The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals.

In vertebrates, the brain is located in the head, protected by the skull and close to the primary sensory apparatus of vision, hearing, balance, taste, and smell.

Brains can be extremely complex. The cerebral cortex of the human brain contains roughly 15–33 billion neurons, perhaps more, depending on gender and age, linked with up to 10,000 synaptic connections each.

Each cubic millimeter of the cerebral cortex contains roughly one billion synapses.

Carl Sagan on Human Brain

Despite rapid scientific progress, much about how brains work remains a mystery.

The operations of individual neurons and synapses are now understood in considerable detail, but the way they cooperate in ensembles of thousands or millions has been very difficult to decipher.

Methods of observation such as EEG recording and functional brain imaging tell us that brain operations are highly organized, while single unit recording can resolve the activity of single neurons, but how individual cells cause complex operations is unknown.

  • Your eyeballs are an extension of your brain
  • The weight of the average human brain is 3 lbs
  • The human brain stops growing at age 18
  • Yawning sends more oxygen to the brain to cool it down and wake it up
  • The average amount of thoughts that people experience each day is believed to be 70,000
  • Studies show that brain waves are more active while you are dreaming compared to when you are awake
  • The saying that the average person uses 10% of their brain is not true since every part of the brain has a known function
  • Lack of sleep may actually hurt your abilities to create new memories
  • An estimated 12% of people dream in black & white while the remaining dream in color
  • Excessive stress has shown to alter brain structure, brain function and brain cells
  • Memories triggered by scent have a stronger emotional connection
  • There are no pain receptors in the brain, so the brain can feel no pain