Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Journey to the Brain

elisagogogo's picture

   Our brain is amazingly complex. It is complicated not only in its biological way, but more importantly, in how it helps us to think, to understand the world and to construct reality. We shape our brains to form distinctive subjective reality with the help of five senses. Our self experience of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching brings us lively perception. We also construct the brain by dream and illusion, discovering what we can’t feel in solid sense.


Sitting on the train back home from the body museum, I was satisfied and disappointed at the same time. It was a wonderful museum in its creative way to make a maze that resembles real human to show human body. By walking through the “body”, people could vividly see different parts of the body and even experience how they work. While a blemish in an otherwise perfect thing is that the “body” doesn’t include the brain, the most important part of the body. The narrator regrettably apologized that it was because human brain is so complex that there was no way to put it in an artificial structure. But how complicated is the brain? Why can we understand the whole body except such a small part? Confused and disappointed but still crazily wanted to explore the inside of the brain like going through the inside of the body, I gradually fell into sleep.


   Suddenly, a huge door opened me to a walnut-like thing with convoluted appearance. “Welcome to Museum of Brain”, a lady yelled enthusiastically with a big smile on her face. “Today I’m going to lead you to the wonderful world of human brain. This amazing brain that we are going to explore contains approximately 50 to 100 billion neurons, of which about 10 billion could pass signals to each other via up to 1000 trillion synaptic connections. It could store the information of about 50 billion books, and is able to compute much more than the world’s most advanced computer…so guys please follow me tightly and don’t get lost!”


As I was surprised by the biological composition and the precise connection between the infinite numbers of cells in such a small 3-pound brain, we were led to an isolated room. The door behind us slowly closed. Magically, everything including the narrator’s voice disappeared within a few seconds except a visual image of a woman with a beautiful head of hair standing in front of me. The hair was long, raven and black, but as time went by, it became silvered. A strong and delicate feeling arose in me. I’m sure that I saw this somewhere, but feeling disconnected with everything other than seeing such an image, I couldn’t recall anything. At this time, the door opened and I could hear the narrator again. “We are at the occipital lobe of the brain now. It is a part of the brain that concerns with vision. Since each part of human brain is in charge of a specific function, no across-the-board sensation and cognition could be made if one part is isolated.” It suddenly dawned on me: that was why I could see the women’s hair even if I couldn’t feel anything else.


 Our trip in the museum kept going and then we arrived at another lobe of the brain called temporal lobe. According to the narrator’s description, the temporal lobe is concerned with hearing, emotions and certain aspects of perception. The door closed again. This time, I could clearly hear someone calling my name. The voice was so familiar and so intimate that I was absolutely sure that I had heard about it for hundreds of thousands of time. But the desperate struggle to understand didn’t solve the problem. What was it? What was I getting through?


The desire of getting to know the truth tremendously increased after visiting temporal lobe that I could not wait but ran to the next room called frontal lobe, wondering if this lobe that concerned with human mind and behavior such as moral sense, reasoning and abstract thought could help me to find the truth. It certainly did! As soon as I ran into the room, great variety of emotions emerged and flashed through my head: happy when hearing my name called to be picked up after a day in kindergarten; sad when seeing the beautiful head of hair silvered as time passed by; satisfied when smelling and eating tasty food; homesick at the airport when saying goodbye to… It was mum! At once, I realized that it was mum whom I saw in the occipital lobe and heard in the temporal lobe! It was so unbelievable to see how I constructed and recognized my image of mum: as my eyes and ears could construct independently by themselves, seeing and hearing made separated senses and interpretation in different part of the brain, but there was a deeper association between sound and vision if relate them together with the help of emotion. Such a construction must be the uniquely complexity in the world!


“The next station: XXX”, the announcement in the train woke me up as I was still enjoyably wandering in the magic maze of human brain. I opened my eyes and found myself still sitting on the train. It took me a couple of minutes to persuade myself that it was a maze in the dream that I had just went to, because the Brain Museum was almost as vivid and authentic as what I saw in the museum in reality that I could even see those interlaced vassals. Unbelievably, it was a world that I wanted but could not go to in real world by any method that my brain helped me to go by dreaming. Even more interestingly, I related my knowledge about the brain with the scenes that I saw in the dream. It made me feel my brain is more mystical, magical and complex than its biological structure. Because instead of merely making sense of things existing in real world, it could also construct my interpretation by illusion and even mix objective reality and illusion together.


My dream to the Brain Museum fully explains the complexity of human brain. Biologically, it has amazingly inner structure and innumerable distinctive cells with different functions. Psychologically, the brain understands the world by both sensible and conscious experience and hallucinatory illusions. It was such a wonderful journey to such an amazing brain.




   1)       Phantoms in the Brain, BBC