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Neuroscience and You


Timothy O. Goyette

Tip O’Neill, a politician from Massachusetts, USA, famously said that, “All politics is local.”  This week on the east coast of the USA we had a storm.  It occurs to me that all disasters are local as well. 

It is true that we have up to the minute reporting from newspapers, television, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and more resources than I can think of.  But even though we can have empathy for those who have suffered through a disaster, it is not the same as living through it.

We each experience this on a smaller level.  We tell friends of a great or exciting experience and they look on with glazed eyes.  They appreciate the situation and are glad for you, but they can’t fully relate.  The conversation usually ends with some derivation of, “you should have been there.”

That is the way it will be until sensory inputs are developed that actually allow us to share our experiences.  If you sky dive for the first time, your buddies can plug in and feel the fear, the wind on their faces, letting go into the void, and watching the ground rush up.  Cool technology when they come up with it.

Some might suggest a holographic environment.  There, however, we would know that the risks are not real.

As of right now the best way to experience events we did not go through ourselves is by reading a story.  Newer studies from neuroscience show that when we are involved in fiction and we read about a smell, the area of our brain responsible for processing smells lights up.

Hopefully we have all had the experience of getting drawn into a book and looking up discover that 4 hours have past - the dog couldn’t wait any longer and relieved themselves on the floor, our spouse has invited people over and there is a party going on around us, and the Earth just collided with the Sun.

If you know what I’m talking about, you’re part of the club.  We’ll work out the tee-shirt details later.

For more details on the neuroscience stuff, Google: “Your Brain on Fiction.”  Now go out and get lost in a book!

2012-11-15 07:08:59
Ironspider - Truth is stranger than fiction, but that's because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. Mark Twain

2012-11-03 09:42:42
Sixbears - I hate that coliding with the sun thing. Very hard on the book I'm reading.

2012-11-02 09:14:27
micheledutcher - Your comments on the barrier between minds is definately right on. We can empathize to some degree, but when something terrible happens another person, its impossible to have the same emotions. When pictures are posted of other people's grandkids, you can't experience the same join. Interesting.

2012-11-01 06:26:00
Books... the original Holodeck! Good one.

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