This quote is the writing of Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University. Her latest book Seven And A Half Lessons About The Brain sounds interesting. Here are some of her thoughts.
“Neuroscience evidence clearly shows that the brain usually initiates our actions before we are aware of them.” Isn’t that interesting? “Here is what I mean. Your brain’s primary task is to regulate the systems of your body to keep you alive and well. But there is a snag: your brain spends its day locked in a dark, silent box (your skull) with no direct access to what’s going on inside your body or outside in the world. It receives ongoing information about the state of your body and the world__this is sense data___sensory surfaces of your body (your retina in your eyes, your cochlea in your ears, and so on). These sense-data are outcomes of the events in the world and inside your body. But your brain does not have access to the events or their causes. It only receives the outcomes. A loud bang, for example, might be thunder, a gunshot, or a drum, and each possible cause means different actions for your brain to launch.
How does the brain figure out the cause of sense-data so that it prepares the best actions, Without direct access to those causes, your brain has to guess. And so, in every moment, your brain remembers past experiences that are similar to your present circumstances, to guess what might happen in the next moment, so it can prepare your body’s next action. Guessing and potentially correcting mistakes is more efficient than reacting from scratch. The predictions are in effect your brain changing the firing of its own neurons to prepare the body to act, a second or so before the movements actually occur. This predictive process happens completely outside of your awareness, but it is continuous throughout your life, and a growing number of scientists are now pretty sure that it’s a primary driver for your actions.” I found this short article in BBC Science Focus magazine.
The brain is fasinating. She goes on to talk a bit about free will. But this part of the article has me thinking about human behaviors of all kinds, and how to apply this knowledge to what humans do every day. An interesting thought is it not?