Aha! You’ve experienced the feeling when you finally figure it out or an idea just pops into your head. It happens instantaneously, like a lightning bolt struck your brain! But it feels good. Sometimes you can’t help but smile, say “oh!” or even laugh.
That “lightbulb moment” is the actual connection occurring between neurons in your brain that we call a synapse. Synapses are linked with a release of pleasure as an encouragement for that behavior. The organisms that got pleasure from forming synapses would attempt to form more and those were the organisms that won out.
The “lightbulb moment” is only one example of a synapse forming. The synapse is the mechanism for every neuron interaction throughout your body. It fires between sensory and memory neurons so we can detect and interpret our surroundings. It fires between memory and muscular neurons to remember how to move around. It fires with every thought you have, every decision you make, and every fact that you learn.
Every synapse releases pleasure, which is why it’s actually fun to learn. It’s enjoyable to watch television, think about how much your brain has to synapse with an entire scene of moving images and sounds, not to mention plot and characters! There’s a lot going on in your brain, and you like it that way because you are learning. Whether you decide to learn about quantum physics or who the murderer was in CSI, you’ll still enjoy it because synapses release pleasure.
Synapsing doesn’t need to only take place between sensory and memory or muscular and memory. Memory neurons can also be synapsed together. The process of synapsing memory neurons is called creation and it gives us our imagination. You can take several ideas and put them all together to create a scene that has never existed.
Ideas can be mapped in memory neurons depending on when the information was gained and what it is synapsed to. I call this hypothetical “field of ideas” a neurograph. Let’s pick two ideas: your car and a bunny. Usually you don’t see these words together but you might figure that a bunny is small enough to fit inside of a car. You can now synapse the two ideas together knowing that it will work according to the world you know.
Now let’s pick another pair of ideas: your car and an elephant. You may have gotten a bit of amusement from imagining that. Like the first pair, usually you don’t see these ideas together but this time, their sizes don’t match up. There isn’t a clear route of synapsing these ideas together to form a scene so a new universe must be built. Since a new universe is necessary to combine these ideas, the synapse releases more pleasure. Activating more neurons releases more pleasure; sometimes enough to make you smile.
If I give you ideas like Harry Potter, pterodactyls, Obama, and cheese fondue, you can construct a scene by synapsing the memory of each of them together in a single neural path. Completion will force you to create a background and maybe even introduce a plot to make sense of all these ideas. You just built a universe without even trying. You can bring in the memory of movement to animate this picture and whatever else you want to make it more entertaining. Your imagination is your own personal movie theatre and you’re the director!
Synapses also last. If you hear a song you loved as a child, you might remember a specific moment from your past. They are synapsed together and the memory is stimulated when you hear that song. This is why some say “people never change.” If you’re visiting an old friend, you’ll likely revert back to the personality you once had when you spent time with them. That specific personality is synapsed to that friend.
Synapses record information at a moment in time, but times always change. It’s why parents have a hard time watching their children grow up and change from the person that they knew so well. It’s why you remember the way people made you feel more than anything they said. Remember that you are constantly being synapsed in other people’s brains, give them something nice to synapse to you.