A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness Essay

Abby Cole Biology Summer Essay The human brain is extremely hard to understand; however, there are people in the world dedicated to understanding it. A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, written by Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran covers many topics regarding the brain, one of the more thoroughly covered topics is how the human brain works. This leads to the question, are humans set apart from other life on earth because of their brains?

Although there is not as much knowledge of animals brains, there are still many things that make humans different from other life on earth, among these are their language and the complexity of their brain and how it works. The languages of human beings are very complex in many different ways. Throughout the world there are hundreds of different languages, English, German, French, Spanish, etc. There are even dead languages that people no longer speak in but records are still found in, such as Latin.

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Each language has it’s own grammatical construction and it’s own words. As one grows up he or she is usually taught their native language, if he or she lives in America it’s English, Mexico it’s Spanish, etc. Then after he or she has mastered her native language, he or she can go off and learn other languages. However, learning a foreign language is not just an activity someone does one day because he or she is bored, learning a foreign language takes time, effort, and a certain amount of skill.

However, there are people who are gifted with this skill and can (and do) learn many different languages The person who is learning the language is so used to speaking and thinking in their native language that it can be hard to learn how to speak and think in the foreign language. For example, Latin has declensions (to form nouns), conjugations (to form verbs), three different genders, five different cases of nouns, six different tenses of verbs, and of course all nouns or verbs must be either singular or plural, all of these are factors that can change the meaning of a word if they are translated incorrectly.

For example one could have a sentence that he or she thinks is translated as: the girl is walking down the road and sees boys, where in reality the sentence is: the girl walked down the road and saw a boy. It is not just Latin that has all of this, in every language there are certain things one has to know in order to translate a simple sentence; this is what makes the languages of human beings so complex. Although humans cannot learn the languages of animals there is reason to believe that each species of animal has a language or other form of communication.

However, this form of communication is not as complex, in any way, as the human languages. Not only is their communication not as complex, but animals brains are not complex enough to be able to learn the language of a different species other than themselves; for example a dog cannot learn the language or learn how to communicate with a dolphin. It has been proven that the human brain is much more complex than any other animals brain.

There are the basics that all have, such as the brains sending signals when it wants the body to do something such as move the arm, or communicate; the brain controls everything for humans and animals. Then there are the complexities such as phantom limbs, cross-wiring and Capgras syndrome. Do animals experience these phenomenons? Since there is the language barrier between humans and animals, scientists will probably never know. Although scientists know exactly what causes it and maybe even how to fix it, there is no way to get past that language barrier between humans and animals.

If animals brains were more complex, and they were able to understand and tell humans what they are experiencing there would not be this debate; scientists would know for a fact if human brains are actually more complex than animal brains or if what scientists think is all just theory because humans can not communicate with animals and actually find out. However, there is no way to find out so for now the theory is that human brains are more complex than any animal brain.

Although dogs are able to learn certain words that their owner say such as sit, stay, walk, speak, jump etc. , there is no actual back and forth communication between the dog and owner. This is because there are two different languages colliding, and although human brains are more complex than animal brains and can learn other worldly languages there is still a barrier between humans and animals. Therefore, human beings are fundamentally different from other life on earth. Prompt 2

Everyones brain is different, there is different information in it, people have different defects in it, the bottom line is brains work differently. Some brains are more artistically focused, some are more intellectually focused, and some (proven by the person to whom the brain is connected) have nothing in them. Synesthesia or “cross-wiring” is a phenomenon that can (and does) occur in many peoples brains. Not many experiments have been done to explore this phenomenon; however, the topic is thoroughly covered in A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, by Dr.

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. Although many people experience this “cross-wiring” physically and/ or through metaphor I believe that I personally do not experience it, because I do not associate numbers with colors and although I may be decent at art and poetry I am not poetically or artistically gifted; however, I do feel like I experience the synesthesia of language and movement. One form of synesthesia is when a person associates specific numbers with specific colors, such as every five is purple and every two is orange.

If someone were to mix in fives with twos in a certain shape, the synesthete could not only find the fives in a heartbeat but he or she could also determine the shape the fives were in, this is because the purple fives stood out against the orange twos. Within the fusiform gyrus, the area of the brain that deals with colors is right next to the area of the brain that deals with numbers and visual graphics, they are so close that they are almost touching each other. Sometimes there is a gene mutation that will cause defective pruning of connections between adjacent brain modules.

If this happens in the fusiform gyrus, where the color and number areas are, then you get cross wiring causing number and color synesthesia. There is also a synesthesia where specific days of the week and months of the year are associated with a specific color. This happens where the numerical sequence idea is depicted which is close to another color area in the angular gyrus. Thus two different synesthetes are created, the lower synesthete in whom color is elicited by the visual features of the illustration and the higher synesthete in whom color is elicited by the theory.

I associate neither days, months nor numbers with specific colors; therefore, I do not experience this form of synesthesia. Another form of synesthesia to which Dr. Ramachandran poses a theory about is metaphor synesthesia. If the gene mutation is everywhere in the brain, one experiences hyper connectivity throughout the brain. Dr. Ramachandran explains that this is most likely why synesthesia is much more common in artists, poets, and writers. All artists, poets, and writers use metaphor in their painting and writing, these metaphors are made of completely unrelated ideas linked together.

How do they link these unrelated ideas together? There is hyper connectivity in their brains, their brains are connected all over; therefore, they can connect totally opposite concepts from totally opposite parts of their brain. I am not artistically talented or exceedingly talented in writing and I cannot form metaphors easily; thus, I do not have this form of synesthesia. There is one more form of synesthesia that Dr. Ramachandran talks about in depth and that is language synesthesia.

He believes that this is a correspondence between visual (object) shape and sound shape which is represented in the temporal gyrus. He conducted an experiment with ink blots and words. The smooth edged ink blot was known by 99% as bouba, and the sharp edged ink blot was known by 99% as ki-ki. This is because the people he tested recognized that the jagged and sharp edges resemble the jagged and sharp sounding word ki-ki, and the smooth edges resembled the smooth sounding word bouba.

This is because the visual and auditory motor maps are right next to each other in the Broca’s area of the brain. Connected to this theory is the theory of mouth and hand movements. The brain map for mouth and hand motor movements are right next to each other in the Broca’s area of brain. This is why some people talk with their hands. Say someone says the word “big”, some people would just say “big”, but someone with synkinesia (Dr. Ramachandrans name for this phenomenon) would make a hand gesture to represent the word “big”.

Personally I associate ki-ki with sharp and bouba with smooth, and not just those words, most words I recognize with some kind of shape. I also talk with my hands most of the time so I do believe that I have this form of synesthesia (or synkinesia, as Dr. Ramachandran would call it). I personally experience one or two of the forms of synesthesia that Dr. Ramachandran covers in his book. I do not experience synesthesia artistically or through metaphor but through speaking and moving.


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