Thursday, June 18, 2015

Just Finished my First Brain Surgery

I just finished my first brain surgery. It was a very, very, very, very minor procedure, and it certainly was not done on a human patient. It was so minor that I wouldn't even call it a real surgery, except that I did actually see and manipulate a living brain.
Drawn by Morgan Q

The procedure lasted about one hour. It was very, very, very, very simple. But for me, having just completed my first year of medical school, it was awesome.

Naturally, my thoughts turned towards the nature of consciousness as I directly examined, and even (slightly) modified, the physical manifestation of the mind. How does the physical brain relate to the mind?

The brain creates a network of electrical signals, which travel along neurons at blinding speeds and with unimaginable amounts of regulation. Billions of microscopic channels in the membranes of neurons open and close, changing intracellular and extracellular chemical concentrations. Messages are passed across membranes and through cells that trigger the expression of genes in the nucleus that code for proteins that will perform a myriad of tasks. This cellular regulation feeds into higher-level regulation, as the brain works as a hyper-complex computer. And somehow, as a result of this, emergent phenomena such as decision making, emotion, and memory arise.

The brain, especially the human brain, capable of exploring, understanding, and appreciating the cosmos, is surely the most interesting subject in the universe.

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