In early April, President Obama put in a proposal for complete brain mapping. This would help us to better understand how the brain works and help us to learn about diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and strokes to name a few. Rafael Yuste, a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, is credited for his work on the subject and for helping to launch this project. At the TEDMED conference in Washington DC Yuste shared the five things that we don’t know about the brain.
1. The brain may be a lot simpler than we think. Yuste states that we seem to think that there is all this magic working in the brain, but it’s really just neurons firing.
2. Human brains probably aren’t that different from animal brains. When research had been done we found that our DNA was not that much different from a fly’s DNA, so who is to say that the brain isn’t the same either?
3. Contrary to popular belief, we do not only use 10% of our brains. Yuste says that every part of our brain is active at all times. Even when we are sleeping the brain is still working. We use different parts of the brain more when we are doing certain activities but the other parts of the brain don’t just shut off. They simply wait in the background running on ‘idle’ until we need them.
4. The argument for brain mapping is not that different from the Human Genome Project. The 10th anniversary of the completion of the project recently passed, and at first no one thought it was possible, just like there are many that think brain mapping isn’t possible. Yuste says that society has so many problems right now that we can’t afford not to know as much as possible about the brain.
5. No one fully understands the brain. Not a single person. But hopefully someday we will.