The Human Brain

I wanted to be a neurologist once, you know. Before the whole skincare obsession and dermatologist dream.

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A brain surgeon didn’t sound too bad either, until I went on a medical internship in 10th grade and decided that, dear lord, if it takes 7 hours of stamina standing by one table with a scalpel in one hand and a patient’s life in another, count me out. For goodness sake, you need to live! You need to go out there and buy a damn sandwich and enjoy your children and read a book. Surgeons pay the ultimate sacrifice, in my opinion. They really do. My dad is one and sometimes I worry he is transforming into a glass sculpture by the day, the toils of other people clinging onto his flesh and making it fragile to the touch, all the weight bearing down on his shoulders, so perhaps one day when I happen to be in a crappy mood and push his mental limits, he might fall apart. I’ll never fully understand what it takes. Medicine, ha.

That’s him down there, my dad. Yes, he’s a smoker, tragically, ironically. I remember being at the Colosseum, snapping, jaws lolling, with him and our photography guide. She told me never, NEVER to smoke like he did.

And with that, she popped out a box of tobacco and started rolling her own cigarettes.

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I came across an article by the NY Times yesterday on the human brain, and my awe for those 3 pounds of jelly and fat was reignited. It was basically about how bigger does not mean better; a bigger pink jelly blob does not equate to larger intellectual capacity, contrary to popular opinion. I’ve heard of this before, but never really looked at why. You can imagine how relieved I was, seeing I have a small head and all (I kid I kid, alright). Over the years, our ancestors’ brains expanded, tethers ripped apart, allowing our neurons to form new circuits, broadening our intellectual depth of field, our capacity to think and process. Our brain is made up of cortices, regions which control different senses (visual, aural etc), where neurons relay the appropriate signals. But you see, us as humans are pretty special. In other animals, during growth and maturity, different cortices expand and more neural connections are made, however  in humans, it is the association cortices which develop, or the cortices between the other main sensory cortices. Furthermore, the wiring is sort of like the Internet, with many branches and tributaries, giving us wild majestic creatures the ability to reflect and foresee and well, go crazy with the many train tracks of thought. Which would explain why I could practically kill myself at night, what with all the thoughts and horrors of the 21st century strangling my brain, keeping me from sleep, from the satisfied opening of my eyes in, what, 5 hours or so.

So it made me think about why people like my father would go to extremes, throw themselves into the deep end for the sake or health of another. An animal would have more rapid, predictable responses, but us as humans are rather selfish, don’t you think? We are better at lying, deceiving, murdering, taking. That being said, we are also insightful, intuitive beings. We are so ridiculously special. And some of us, in this life, aren’t all as selfish as what human nature allows.  Perhaps that is why.

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