The Brain Log

January 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

This morning, I was leisurely sipping my coffee, half listening to WNYC and Weekend Edition discuss the play Constellations, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, a love story that involves What if scenarios, What if the two had met this way instead of that way and so on, and then after that segment, picking up bits and pieces from a discussion on artificial intelligence and how to align the machine’s goals with human values… when a few questions came to mind.

Does the brain log every sense, sight, smell, sound, taste, touch–in every state–awake, asleep and everything in between and then store it? Or are there things the brain simply doesn’t register to begin with? Is there a filter?

Obviously I know nothing about how the brain works. It fascinates me to an nth degree though.

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This blog post on BufferSocial written by Belle Beth Cooper, Why We’re More Creative When We’re Tired and 9 Other Surprising Facts About How Our Brain Works, while it didn’t provide an answer to my questions, was incredibly informative. Did you know that your brain does creative work better when you’re tired? Or that stress changes the size of your brain and can even make it smaller?

Read the post. It won’t disappoint.

Something my stepfather has said a few times to me suddenly popped into my thoughts.

He says it when we’re on the freeway or street and someone zooms by recklessly. I’m paraphrasing but he essentially says how astoundingly boggling it is that, with the millions of people who drive every day and share the roads, that there aren’t more accidents and deaths.

Whenever he’s said this, I’ve never questioned it and instead always wondered how this is possible with all of the inept drivers I’ve experienced. I’m certainly glad there aren’t. But there should be more is how I looked at it.

It’s not as though I’ve never been in a car accident. I’ve experienced my share of them, several fender benders and one fatal and life-changing as a kid.

But still.

So then I started doubting whether there really were so few accidents. Simply being lucky enough not to see or experience a road accident every time I’m in a car or walking or riding my bike certainly doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

I suppose we could debate this last point philosophically:

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But my concern at the moment is about hard documented facts.

I did a search. While I’ve not yet come up with numbers for car to car specific accidents, I was stunned by the numbers for road related injuries and fatalities.

This quoted from Wikipedia:
According to the World Health Organization,road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.24 million deaths worldwide in the year 2010, slightly down from 1.26 million in 2000. That is one person is killed every 25 seconds. Only 28 countries, representing 449 million people (7% of the world’s population), have adequate laws that address all five risk factors (speed, drink–driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints). Over a third of road traffic deaths in low- and middle-income countries are among pedestrians and cyclists. However, less than 35% of low- and middle-income countries have policies in place to protect these road users.[1]

I call my parents every Sunday and I might bring this up with my stepfather tomorrow. Certainly only if my mother steps away. She tends to worry and every bit of news she hears results in a cautionary Be careful because I heard on the news [fill in the blank].

My stepfather may not even remember having said this. That may happen. So then did it happen? Oy. I’m also going to ask him if he knows or read somewhere about the brain storing and blocking information.

Even if he says, No, I’m sure he’ll come up with another topic to discuss. He always does. Whether either of us will remember years from now, who knows…

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