Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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Our AMAZING TIME MACHINE …


Over the past 2,000,000 years of evolution – the human brain has evolved to nearly three times it’s original size. This dramatic increase in size can largely be attributed to the development of new structures – mainly, the frontal lobe, or pre-frontal cortex.
This begs an obvious question – what advantages does this new bit of equipment give us – over the original design? Well, it does lots of stuff – much of which I n=know little about – but one of the main things that it does, is to provide us with the ability to ‘take our thinking beyond the present’. So I see it as a kind of biological time machine.
Going back in time – is pretty easy to understand – we recall previous experiences, and can make intelligent predictions about outcomes in certain situations, by recalling outcomes of previously similar situations that have happened in our past. Memory – experience – this allows us to make guesses about the future.
Going forward in time – is a little more interesting to me – and it is perhaps easy to think of our pre-frontal-cortex as a kind of simulator. That is – we don’t have to actually experience something to build an idea of how it might unfold in reality. For example – we don’t need to make and eat a prawn and chocolate pizza to know that it might not taste the best. We simulate the idea – and in less than a second, we know that it just isn’t worth doing.
I don’t know how animals think – but I can make a pretty strong guess that this time machine-like capability that our pre-fontal-cortex gives us, is one of the ways in which we really and dramatically differ from them.
Experimenting on the mat – provides us fuel for the backward journey in time. It gives our brain the necessary pieces of the puzzle to re-visit the past and based on what we remember (on the mat) make better decisions the next time we train. But our remarkable time machine also allows us to simulate new and novel situations that we may never have actually experienced – and make determinations as to whether they may work or not in real life. This is all a part of the creative process.
Fuel for thought –

JBW

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2 Comments

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Anonymous 3:32 am

Interestingly enough, inhibition is located primarily in the prefrontal cortex. As mentioned, reservations about doing something potentially undesirable are part of our ability for foresight, which could also translate to the mat. The prefrontal cortex enables us to try new things on the mat, and at the same time it can inhibit the same things.
In a way, the prefrontal cortex gave way to the solution and the problem of creativity.

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very timely indeed, a chimp in Sweden (but of course!) appears to have stockpiled rocks to hurl at visitors before the opening hours, so they would be handy when needed:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/2251878/Chimp-plots-stone-throw

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