Neuroscience — by James Wadman


There is a fascinating topic of conversation in the world of neuroscience that covers the ideology that fully understanding all connections in the brain will only reveal yet another small fraction of all there is to know about how our minds work. I hope to convey this point gently, however, because this is not to say that the ingenious work of decoding the brain is an irrelevant endeavor. Instead, what I am saying is that many neuroscientists and I believe that once we understand how the brain’s systems connect and consolidate, we will open a million new doors to further questions and complications that we cannot presently foresee. (Find great related content in this Reddit AMA)

This simultaneously brilliant and horrific revelation is something that is seen in virtually every field of complex science. Physics was thought to be a mastered art in the 19th century before novel discoveries led us to seeing the world in a new and unusual way, thanks to Quantum Mechanics. The completion of the human genome project was thought to revolutionize medicine, but ultimately proved that molecular biology was a lot more “molecular” than we previously thought.

I want to introduce a new mini-series of articles for my blog based on this idea. There is so much effort going on in the world right now to prove things and to conduct research with scientific etiquette, and there are few things in the world I believe in more than the scientific method. However, I also want to open up discussion on things that can’t be provided with direct evidence or can’t be tested just yet. Every great leap of mankind begins with an idea, and I want to take a risk and throw out some grand ideas just as food for thought.

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6 thoughts on “Food for Thought: Neuroscience is Not There Yet

  1. Philomath

    Great Idea James. How boring would the world be if we only talked about what can be proven, and what does that really mean anyway.

    Being humbled, by natures complexity, and understanding that we actually know very little makes for a much more captivating discussion.

  2. James Wadman Post author

    Thank you for your comment, it means a lot. There are so many philosophies of science that it is important to recognize the advantages and limitations of which ever one we choose to adapt in practice.

    PS Your blog is great so I will definitely keep up!

  3. remanandhra

    The study of brain may turn out to be a centuries-long endeavour. 300 years from now we might still be faced with its deepest mysteries. I am always wondering what could we possibly learn during the next 1000 years that we don’t know now, how big that difference would be and how would we perceive our present knowledge and lack of it from this future perspective. How much there is still to learn and how much more do we don’t know than we know that we don’t know?

  4. James Wadman Post author

    The thing about the brain is that it is the storage space for everything that makes us human, and one of the most important things we do as a society is use a combinations of science, sociology, psychology, and politics to define what being human even is. I suspect that in 1,000 years so much will change about our perception that we will view the current humans as some sort of primitive animal. And here’s why: 1) we don’t know what consciousness is, so we can’t fully utilize our subjective intelligence, 2) we don’t know complete what aspects of our anxieties and emotions are outdated evolutionary tools that are disposable in the modern world, and 3) life will be longer, the world will be more populated, and if we manage to survive that long, the world will HAVE to be a much different place because the current trend inevitably leads us to our demise (grim, I know, but this is a scale of 1,000 years and much can happen). So, in short, the answer to your question of how big the difference will be over the next thousand here is going to either be the difference between demise and survival (think a doomed society that just barely overcomes extinction, like in Interstellar) or if we can resolve some of the issues we are facing early we are talking the difference between intelligent, sentient beings and optimally advanced cyberorganisms traveling the universe. Take your pick what you want to believe in for our future.

    As for what we don’t know, we still don’t understand sleep and dreaming, consciousness, full networks in the brain, the exact mechanisms and molecules involved in learning, why the brain breaks down during Alzheimers (we are in a chicken/egg situation with this), why certain chemicals found in plants can cure anxieties better than pharmaceuticals that we think are targeting the right systems, and many more. And in learning the answers to these things, we can then cure insomnia, optimize consciousness, treat diseases more efficiently, optimize learning, reverse neurodegeneration, build stronger medications, etc.

    I liked your question, I might just write a full post on it sometime soon so look out for that. I enjoyed answering this one!

  5. remanandhra

    Thank you for such a sincere answer. This is a serious response to a serious topic! I like how Buckminster Fuller put it: ”Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe.” I am glad I can inspire such responses. That’s what I am striving for.

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