Re: virus: Fwd: The Brain's Basement

Rhonda Chapman (
Fri, 14 May 1999 14:53:55 -0700

>And your brain is not like a computer, where impulses
>travel at the speed of light. Brain messages plod along relatively
>slowly, typically at about 60 miles an hour; so if one brain site wants
>to send a complex message to another site, it needs to send a lot of
>information at one go. That requires a substantial neuron cable. And that
>would mean, if many areas had to talk back and forth with many other
>areas to coordinate things in consciousness, your brain would consist of
>cables and little else.

This might account for a common tendency to "dream up" new ideas and/or solve problems while sleeping, showering and addressing other mundane, low thought tasks. During those times, more of the brain's processing capacity is "free" to handle those complex considerations that have been sort of "stewing on a back burner".

>Even so, we still need to explain a towering coordination problem. As we
>all know from experience, the innumerable bits of information getting
>into consciousness don't just "register" there but seem smoothly
>coordinated. Our view of the world appears seamless. Vision seems
>smoothly coordinated with touch and hearing, thought with memory and
>attention. Likewise, diverse movements seem smoothly coordinated with one
>another as well as with sensory inputs, attention, and higher thought.
>Indeed, everything seems coordinated in minute detail with everything
>else--a major hurdle for theorists trying to figure out how any seat of
>consciousness could work.

Hmm, I don't entirely agree with this paragraph. My intuitive thought processes seem to take a whole bunch of bits and snips, muddle them all together over time, then just hand over some concepts that I would be hard pressed to trace back to a point of origin. I'm not sure I would call that either "seamless" or "smoothly coordinated". It is more the case that it all occurs at such a background level as to be less than visible. In addition, I am quite conscious of having experienced occasions when I have a strong "feeling" about something, that I am as yet unable to codify into a sharable thought.

>That could be important--because, as we have seen, most processed
>information from the cerebellum goes first to the thalamus before being
>sent elsewhere. And, as already noted, the thalamus is mysterious,
>sizable, centrally located, and well-connected. If anything,
>"well-connected" is an understatement, because nearly all incoming
>sensory messages--on everything you see, hear, touch, or taste--go first
>to the thalamus before being sent elsewhere. In fact, virtually
>everything needed to establish consciousness as we know it comes to the
>thalamus--not just new data from sense organs and processed data from the
>cerebral cortex and emotion centers, but also a vast flood of finely
>coordinated data received from the cerebellum. Seen this way, our new
>view of the cerebellum appears to provide a reasonable explanation of why
>our conscious view of the world is so well coordinated, and also supports
>evidence suggesting that if a seat of consciousness exists, its probable
>headquarters is in the thalamus.

How about the thalamus is sort of a "switch board" and the cerebellum is something of "a think tank"?

Fascinating article. Thanks Wade.