Functions and Capabilities of Human Brain
Duration: 4 hours
Target Audience: Engineers, product designers, R&D managers, corporate heads
The human brain is the nature's masterpiece. It is the most complex organ in the entire universe. It is about 1.5 kg in weight, like an oversized walnut, is a bundle of nerves, flesh, and fluid. It has 100 billion neurons and 40 quadrillion synapses. The brain is like the CPU of a computer, and it processes the data sent by five senses—Ears, eyes, tongue, nose, and skin, which are like peripheral devices of a computer system. The brain’s processing speed is 10 power 16 bits/sec and has a memory capacity of 10 power 6 GB. The brain is 80% water, 12% fat, 8% proteins, and has trace amounts of ions. The material cost of the brain is only about Rs. 40 or less than one US dollar, and it works on just 10 Watts of power, and has no moving parts. It is the most complex organ of the body, organ of SELF ('I'), seat of pain and pleasure and our dreams. It is also the center of our memory, imagination and creativity. It is your private computer without a password and yet nobody can download its contents. It wakes us up in the morning (clock in the brain), conducts the day's activities until sleep. Between waking and sleep it enables us to write, type, work, dance, eat, drive, drink, talk, sing, joke, laugh, walk, trust someone, be angry, shed a tear drop, plan our future, and so on. It makes about 20,000 decisions and writes about 5.5 lakh programs to execute our actions each day. It guides the body through the motions of intricacy and delicacy, ranging from the most gross to the most subtle movements, emotions, thoughts. It is jam-packed with functions, programs, connections, and interconnections that overlap with each other. Though the body sleeps at night, the brain itself doesn’t, and its uptime is 100% over 70 years of average life. We have learned more about brain in the last 50 years than in the last 5000 years. In the last 110 years, more than 35 Nobel prizes were awarded to scientists who unlocked a tiny fraction of its mysteries. The detailed workings of the brain is the last great mystery of the human body to be explored and discovered. We owe not only our existence and survival to its capabilities, but also for the infinite joys that we derive by its powers of creativity. That’s why it is a masterpiece of Nature.
Begins forming in the 3rd week of fetal development, thickens to form a neural plate; As the development progresses, the neural plate sinks and forms a neural groove with raised neural folds along each side. Neural folds then fuse along the midline like a closing zipper. By 4th week, forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain develop. By 5th week further subdivisions take place. 250,000 neurons per minute are added during development to create a brain with 100 billion neurons. First spinal cord appears in the form of a tube-shaped structure. The head of this tube becomes the brain. By the time baby is born all 100 billion neurons are there. But, each neuron grows larger as the baby grows, until the child is 8 years old. Wiring is carried out as the learning progresses.
Some features of the brain are:
- Most complex organ of the body. Organ of SELF ('I'). Seat of the soul. Seat of pain and pleasure and our dreams. Seat of creativity and imagination. Seat of memory. Like CPU of a computer.
- 1.5kg in weight. (Called 1.5kg Universe, or 3 Pound Universe). Like an oversized walnut, a bundle of nerves, flesh, and fluid.
- Like a soft boiled egg.
- 80% water, 12% fat, 8% proteins, trace amounts of ions etc.
- 100 billion neurons and 40 x 10^15 synapses (40 quadrillion). A child is born with 100 billion neurons (no additional neurons will be formed), but connections will be established as learning progresses.
- It is your private computer. Nobody can download the contents. (However, a convict's mind in the US was scanned for contents; it came to be 15GB). It's not password protected. Virus (Ex: HIV, some parasites) can get into it.
- We have learned more about brain in the last 50 years than in the last 5000 years.
- Though the detailed workings of the brain is the last great mystery of the human body.
- Everyday, when we wake-up, we are new persons. Brain is different with new experiences, emotions, actions, goals etc. Every 7 years a person changes completely.
- Most important organ in the body. Like a conductor of an orchestra, it ingrates all the sensory information. Without it nothing else would work. Even if they work (other organs), we wouldn't know.
- It is the repository of memory, seat of the soul. It wakes us up in the morning (clock in the brain), conducts the day's activities until sleep. (waking to sleep, and everything in between: write, type, dance, be angry, eat, drive, drink, talk, sing, joke, laugh, walk, trust someone, shed a tear drop, plan ... about 550,000 actions, and 20,000 decisions). It guides the body thru the motions of intricacy and delicacy, ranging from the most gross to the most subtle movements, emotions, thoughts.
- It is jam-packed with functions, programs, connections, and interconnections that overlap with each other.
- It is the most difficult thing to study. Because it can not be easily opened in a person like a heart, lever, ear, or an eye. Studying monkey brains, rat brains, etc we indirectly learnt something.
- Between waking and sleep, it uses the instruments, devices it has created (cars, cellphones, apratments, microscopes, telescopes, aeroplanes, ...)
- if some part of it is removed, other parts takeover, (unlike in any other organ), make new connections (new learnings), new neurons, . In people whose half-brain removed, do very well with just half-brain, one hemisphere)
- A man makes about 20,000 decisions per day, and does 5.5 lakh actions on a normal day (scratching, picking-up a pencil, ... so on). It dreams for about 6 years in a lifetime.
- Downtime: 0 (100% Uptime throughout life).
- The network that never sleeps, though body is sleeping (resting).
- Nature's design choice is 100% or 0%, not 99% or 99.99%.
- Info processing capacity: 100 trillion instructions/Sec. Brings information from everywhere in the body about sensations and pain, by itself it doesn't feel any pain.
- No upgrades required in a lifetime. Comes with lifetime memory, capacity to solve problems, unsolvable even by supercomputers.
- Neorons live as long as we live (unlike other cells that die and renewed).
- By itself doesn't move and also has no moving parts. In contrast (eye, ear, tongue, skin (hair), nose (Celia) have moving parts).
Outline of Lecture
This lecture will cover: The anatomy of the brain, its capacities and functions, neuron structure, neurotransmitters, cranial nerves, spinal cord, sensory integration, sleep, memory, learning, intelligence, emotions and the uniqueness of the brain. These sub-topics will be interlaced with the latest developments in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics, and computer science.