We're trying to understand the brain with the very mental resources that are afforded by our brains. We hope that the brain is simple enough that we can understand it; but it needs to be complex enough for us to be able to understand it.

asked 02 Mar '10, 21:22

NP74's gravatar image


Yes and no.

From a practical standpoint, you don't have to understand the movement of every atom in a glass of water in order to enjoy it, or take advantage of its life-giving properties. But as a chemist or physicist, you might understand a great deal about how water works. This is because science wraps things up in concepts, ideas and theories. This is fundamentally how our mind works, and the reason we can understand seemingly vast topics; we wrap everything in idea nets, and put them into conceptual boxes.

In the same way, it is unlikely that we will comprehend, all at once, all of the minute electrical activity in our brain simultaneously. It would be the mental equivalent of biting our own teeth.

But conceptually, we can (and will) understand a great deal about how our brain works. All of it. Oh sure, there are still corners of the brain that we don't fully understand (many corners), but science will take care of that over time.

The real question is, does it matter? I think it does, to a certain extent. We have come to learn that the brain is a layered contraption, shaped by years of evolutionary development. Each new (and younger, from an evolutionary time standpoint) layer shapes and refines the one below it.

But the lower layers (having to do with survival and base emotions) still take precedence over the layers above them, which explains, in part, some of the curious characteristics of human behavior. This is why some people can act so childish when they get angry or upset; the old brain hijacks the higher brain centers.

As we learn more about the brain, we will find new solutions to problems like dyslexia and stuttering (both are brain problems). We will also have new choices for ways to improve our cognitive and perceptual capabilities.


answered 02 Mar '10, 22:14

Vesuvius's gravatar image


I think of the brain as the hardware and the mind as the program.

Can a computer understand anything?

Mind, on the other hand, can have some understanding to the hardware it uses.


answered 03 Mar '10, 00:25

Inactive%20User's gravatar image

Inactive User ♦♦

We are taking apart the radio to figure out how the music with all its complexity is being manufactured from within the radio.

The fact that this radio under scrutiny is a tuning instrument is still not obvious to the authorities on the subject.

However, they have managed to label all the frequencies the tuning capacitor is seemingly capable of "manufacturing"


answered 03 Mar '10, 03:07

The%20Traveller's gravatar image

The Traveller

I would have to say no. Our brain is not where thoughts reside, but is rather the receiver and transmitter of our thoughts. So the knowing has to come from a higher consciousness. The brain is physical and dies when the physical body dies,it is what uses the brain to translate our thoughts into physical reality that is the 'knowing', and that 'knowing' continues to live when the physical body has passed.

I think this is why we can't get enlightenment on an intellectual level but only on an experiential level.


answered 05 Mar '10, 13:28

Michaela's gravatar image


I am sure that this century will be the one that sees us finally cracking what is inside our skull, so-to-speak (pardon the pun!). Our increased knowledge of how the brain works has already caused us to refine drugs for the brain- drugs like antidepressants, anesthetics, and even medicine to cure some cancers of the brain. My aunt lived five years with brain cancer- unheard of even two decades ago.

Perhaps what you are referring to is the soul within the brain. That connection is an altogether different problem. We still do not know exactly what part of the brain the soul resides in. In fact, it very well may be that this question may elude us for a while yet.

But as far as brain functions and understanding them- we're getting closer and closer to the discovery of genes for mental illness (such as schizophrenia) I am sure that by the end of the century, genetic engineering will be a large and prosperous business. Understanding our DNA is key to it all. Remember that DNA even tells whether you are someone who wears rings or not (from studies on twins).

Blessings, Jai


answered 05 Mar '10, 16:03

Jaianniah's gravatar image


Funny, your question reminds me of a question my high school science teacher asked the class. Her question was, "How do we find the boiling point of mercury?" I can't seem to recall how it was done, but I remember it was a bit complex.

Please note that I was in high school when digital thermometers and infrared thermal-sensors were not around yet. (I feel old now...)

So mercury definitely boils at a certain set point. We just had to use other methods and calculations to find the exact temperature. Perhaps it is also the case with the brain. Our brain alone may not be able to fully comprehend the brain.


answered 18 Mar '10, 00:37

Oasis's gravatar image


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