Part 1 of 3
Your brain is made up of trillions of communication cells, called neurons, and each is structured as a messenger. Dendrites receive signals while axons send them. Some neurons detect various stimuli in the environment and send a signal to neurons in the brain. These neurons accept the detected information and store it as memory. I call this chain of linking neurons a neural path and it is the fundamental process of your brain.
Some neural paths start from the senses and travel to memory. Some neural paths start from memory and go to the senses. Neural paths can even start from memory and only access other memory neurons. You can think of a neural path as a “thought.”
When information received in the brain is new, it is stored on new memory neurons. If the information is similar to already stored memory, the receiving neurons connect to the stored memory. The process of neurons connecting is called a synapse and it releases pleasure whenever we do it, but more on that later.
To save space and prevent repeating information, already stored memories are linked to incoming information. This is why you are reminded of something when you sense a familiar stimulus. The more often a stimulus is detected, the more often that memory neuron is activated. When your neurons activate, helper cells insulate the neuron to protect it and speed up the activation process. As you can imagine, the memories that are activated the most often are the most important.
If stored memory isn’t reactivated by a repeating stimulus, it’s deemed unimportant and different helper cells wipe the neuron’s stored memory to reuse it. This process is called forgetting and it helps our limited brains become nearly unlimited.
Memory in the brain can be thought of as interlinking groups of neurons. I like to call these groups neural clusters but they’re more commonly thought of as “ideas.” An idea in the brain is connected to everything that has to do with the idea. An elephant is connected to the image, sound and smell of an elephant; it’s connected to the spelling and pronunciation of the word elephant in all the languages you know; it’s also connected to every story you’ve ever heard or seen about elephants!
Every idea in your head exists because tons of neurons have synapsed together. Neural clusters consisting of significantly more neurons than others are known as your “deep thoughts.”
When you detect a stimulus, you synapse it to all the other stimuli you’re currently detecting. This is the reason you might remember an entire situation from a single picture or a song. When multiple stimuli repeat together, we synapse them together and call it a trend. A trend means an idea is linked to another idea. A separate neural cluster must then synapse to the trend to explain why the stimuli are always together; this is called causality.
In our earlier example, elephants are synapsed to categories that describe it: animal, mammal, big, etc. Categorizing is merely connecting memory cells together; causality is the glue between them. Elephant is categorized as an animal because it can be synapsed to the qualities, more memory neurons, of an animal. Likewise, an elephant can be synapsed to the qualities of big.
Categorizing helps to preserve memory cells by creating more synapses to other neurons, preventing the memory from being forgotten. New information can be stored in any number of categories or in dichotomies if there are only two possible categories. However, the idea of a category is a dichotomy in itself because all things are either part of the category or not.
Sensing a stimulus activates a neural path. When that neural path activates a neural cluster, the important neurons connected to that idea are also activated. This process repeats in a “splash effect” chain reaction. This is what is happening when your thoughts bounce around, when one thing makes you think of something else which makes you think of something else. All currently activated sensory and memory neurons in the brain make up the consciousness. In a way, the consciousness is “living in” the Organism: a self-sustaining animal made up of lots of different types of cells, including neurons.
There has always been an understood separation of our minds and bodies. Over generations we’ve used names like “spirit” or “soul” to describe the part of us that is separate from our body. The consciousness is your spirit, it is your soul. Whatever name you want to call it, your consciousness is you.
The consciousness is responsible for making sure the Organism gets what it needs to survive and thrive. The Organism can send signals to the consciousness which can send signals back to the Organism through a neural path that activates the motor center. The motor center lets you control the Organism, it’s the reason you can decide to stand up or turn your head.
To better understand how memory neurons link, you can take a look at a visual representation of thoughts that I call a neurograph. Naturally, a single idea in your brain is made up of way more neurons than I could possibly draw on a graph. Remember to take the visual aid as more of a concept and less of a measurement.