In the brain, billions of neurons frantically transmit electrochemically-based messages over millions of miles of myelinated axons every second of your life. Brain structures composed of innervated tissue, nuclei and cell bundles also receive and send messages unceasingly via neurons supported by a fatty substance called “white matter”.

Somehow, this three-pound, lumpy-looking organ contained in the sturdy confines of your bony skull is responsible for your vision, your hearing, your sense of smell, your sense of taste and your ability to be conscious of reality.

How does the brain do this? And is the brain really more complex than the universe?

Of Quantum Physics, Black Holes and Neurotransmitters

Neuroscientists who have spent their lives studying the intricacies of the human brain will readily admit this mysterious organ may never be fully understood. Even less complicated brains composed of only a primitive limbic system (such as those found in worms, amphibians and fishes) remain difficult to understand. Although a number of theories exist that attempt to explain how human brains “do” what they do, no one theory fully deciphers the enigma of consciousness, the unpredictability of emotions and the almost instinctive drive for meaning that emerges from deep within the human brain. .

While we know that the universe is immensely old, unfathomably huge and adheres to most known laws of physics (except for black holes and that newly discovered stuff called “dark matter” that has astrophysicists scratching their heads), we only know about 10 percent of what makes the brain “tick”. We are especially confounded by how consciousness and self-awareness emerges from the bio-electro-chemical processes happening within the brain at blindingly fast speeds. In fact, some neuroscientists think the only way we will ever understand how the brain functions is to apply the often offbeat rules of quantum physics.

Without neurotransmitters, the brain would operate like the brain of a futuristic robot, capable of finding answers to the most complicated logic problems and acting in a completely rational manner. The “person” being guided by a brain without neurotransmitters would never feel hungry, sleepy, happy, angry, sad or aggravated. They would also never suffer from mental disorders or addiction, no matter how much heroin, meth or cocaine that person consumes. Absent of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and GABA, the brain is no longer capable of feeling reward, pleasure or euphoria.

10 Things We Still Don’t Know About the Brain

  1. How mental activities arise from the interaction of synapses, neurons and neurotransmitters.
  2. How memories are stored, preserved and retrieved.
  3. How complex, non-instinctual emotions such as hope, shame and embarrassment are formed by chemicals that evolved to millions of years ago in response to surviving and reproducing.
  4. How does the brain “make” someone more intelligent than another person?
  5. Why does the brain need to sleep and dream?
  6. How do specialized areas of the brain integrate and communicate with each other?
  7. What exactly is consciousness? Is it self-awareness or awareness of others?
  8. Why and how does music cause us to “feel” emotions?
  9. How does the brain allow us to “see” into the future (formulate future plans, daydream, conjecture)?
  10. What is creativity and how does the brain “create”?

Brain Science and Addiction

The more we learn about how electrochemical processes and specific pathways in the brain are altered by psychoactive substances, the more we learn about the disease of addiction. We promote understanding of how the brain responds to addictive substances, why it is so difficult to stop abusing drugs and how your brain changes during the course of a recovery program. Realizing that addiction is a brain disease can help you complete a recovery program and achieve a lifetime of sobriety, health and peace.

References:

1. http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9907009v2.pdf

2. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/11/emotion.aspx

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/