20/12/2011 by Josephine Rose
You may not know it, but yes, you too have the ability to time travel!
Don’t believe me? Think of what you’ll be doing in the next thirty minutes… there! You have just projected yourself into the future, and have come back in the present!
The concept of thinking about the future is a recent research interest. It is based on how our brain deals with memories. When faced with a problem, for example, we usually try brainstorming on the number of different possible scenarios that could happen. We play out the choices in our heads and try to come up with the likely outcomes. Then we choose what we think is best, based on the number of situations we’ve imagined.
Don’t you think that’s amazing?
Our brain has a way of mixing and matching the different kinds of information that it acquires. Our memories are so flexible that from past instances, we gain the ability to project into the future.
Contrary to popular belief, our memories are not like recorded TV shows that we can replay whenever we like. We don’t remember things down to that detail. Once we encode information in our head, our brain starts picking details out apart and then continues on to tagging each detail with a specific category. We remember the gist, only the most important part of the experience.
Then using these tagged elements from our past memories, our brains are able to then recreate future scenarios. For example, it will have an idea of what a regular office looks like, of what having a horrible boss may be like, and of what having a wicked hang-over feels like. Our brains can combine past details into totally novel situations, and we can imagine it as if it already happened!
That’s not the only thing though. Asides from time-travelling, we can also read other people’s minds. Cool right? We don’t need to hear what their thoughts are exactly to know what they could possibly be thinking. The Theory of Mind (or ToM), as it is known, postulates that given a human child develops normally from birth, he or she can develop this understanding of subtle human interactions. For example, have you observed how infants usually look you straight in the eyes? If they see you starring at something, they instantly have the ability to follow your gaze because usually, they are curious at what you are looking at. They’ll look deep into your eyes, look at the object you are starring at, then look back at you just to confirm that they’ve got it right. Cute huh?
Finally, we have the ability to see the bright side of things. Our brains are naturally biased towards being optimistic. Truthfully enough, too much of anything is a bad thing, and sometimes, it said that those with depression actually have a more realisitic point of view due to their pessimism, than normal, optimistic people. But without the ability to see the silver lining, where do you think we’ll be after going through traumatizing disasters, through failure after so much hard work, or worse even, through the death of a loved one? Without our ability to see beyond the present, to hope for something better, we’d get to nowhere. We wouldn’t be able to progress and plan ahead.
All these “super-powers” I’ve told you about only consists of the tip of the iceberg. Our brain does many wonderful things that we shouldn’t take for granted. That is why we here at BrainBreaking feel like it is of utmost importance to help fellow scientists advance their projects and researches regarding the human brain.
So help us help others improve lives by ensuring that everyone has a fighting chance at life, and at having a good, healthy brain. We think that this calendar from the Centre for Brain Research is a cool gift for anyone this Christmas. Visit their website at http://centreforbrainresearch.wordpress.com/
It’s kind of like bestowing someone else with the awesome super-powers that you already have!
Merry Christmas everyone! xoxo