The Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore / Source: Cnet News
The human brain is truly awesome!
A typical, healthy one houses some 200 billion nerve cells, which are connected to one another via hundreds of trillions of synapses. Each synapse functions like a microprocessor, and tens of thousands of them can connect a single neuron to other nerve cells. In the cerebral cortex alone, there are roughly 125 trillion synapses, which is about how many stars fill 1,500 Milky Way galaxies.
These synapses are, of course, so tiny (less than a thousandth of a millimeter in diameter) that humans haven't been able to see with great clarity what exactly they do and how, beyond knowing that their numbers vary over time. That is until now.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have spent the past few years engineering a new imaging model, which they call array tomography, in conjunction with novel computational software, to stitch together image slices into a three-dimensional image that can be rotated, penetrated and navigated. Their work appears in the journal Neuron this week.
To test their model, the team took tissue samples from a mouse whose brain had been bioengineered to make larger neurons in the cerebral cortex express a fluorescent protein (found in jellyfish), making them glow yellow-green. Because of this glow, the researchers were able to see synapses against the background of neurons.
They found that the brain's complexity is beyond anything they'd imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief, says Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of the paper describing the study:
One synapse, by itself, is more like a microprocessor -- with both memory-storage and information-processing elements -- than a mere on/off switch. In fact, one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.
Smith adds that this gives us a glimpse into brain tissue at a level of detail never before attained: "The entire anatomical context of the synapses is preserved. You know right where each one is, and what kind it is."
While the study was set up to demonstrate array tomography's potential in neuroscience (which is starting to resemble astronomy), the team was surprised to find that a class of synapses that have been considered identical to one another actually contain certain distinctions. They hope to use their imaging model to learn more about those distinctions, identifying which are gained or lost during learning, after experiences such as trauma, or in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's.
In the meantime, Smith and Micheva are starting a company that is gathering funding for future work, and Stanford's Office of Technology Licensing has obtained a U.S. patent on array tomography and filed for a second.
For www.mindabilities.com by Sarah Fenwick
History is full of the incredible feats of the human mind, from the discovery of penicillin to feats of mental discipline shown by yogis who sleep on beds of nails or go for long periods without food.
However, this article does not focus on the step-by-step mental processes of a scientist who discovers a new cure for a disease, but the incredible psychic leaps – so far unexplained –of paranormal phenomena. Such phenomena are psychic ability, telekinetic powers, and other extra sensory perception. One look at the rich history of human beings who exhibited these skills reveals just how extraordinary they are.
There are a number of different types of psychic ability, including Astral Projection which is the ability to leave one''s body and travel in spirit to another location; Aura Reading or the ability to see the energy fields that emanate from living beings.
Clairaudience or the ability to hear what is out of hearing range and a famous example is Joan of Arc, who was born in 1412 in Orleans. She heard voices from a young age and when she was a teenager, these voices prompted her to lead the French army against the English at Orleans. At the age of 19, Joan was burnt at the stake as a heretic due to her ability to hear voices.
Clairvoyance or Remote Viewing, is the ability to see visions of that which is hidden or far away; Clairsentience or insights into a hidden or forgotten fact; and Divination or fortune telling, precognition, prophesy, and other methods used in an effort to predict the future. Then, there’s Precognition or knowing the future - usually this ability refers to knowing general outcomes, with occasional flashes of detailed insight.
Any discussion of these particular phenomena must start with Nostradamus, who is widely acknowledged to have had Precognition and predicted major events far beyond his lifetime. Nostradamus was famous for his writings that predict major events in world history from the Great Fire of London to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
Another fascinating skill is Levitation, or the ability to cause one''s body to hover off the ground. One of the more well-documented cases of levitation involved St. Theresa of Avila during the 16th century. These extreme reaches of mental ability are a glimpse into the unlimited potential of the human mind. Whether we are skeptics or open to the possibilities, it is a fact that there is a huge body of work and study on these phenomena.
Joseph Banks Rhine (September 29, 1895 – February 20, 1980) was one of the pioneers of parapsychology and founded the parapsychology lab at Duke University. Rhine began the studies that helped develop parapsychology into a branch of science, looking upon it primarily as a branch of abnormal psychology.
Rhine tested many students as volunteer subjects in his research project. His first exceptional subject in this ESP research was Adam Linzmayer, an economics undergraduate at Duke. In the spring of 1931, Linzmayer scored incredibly high in preliminary Zener-card tests in which he accurately guessed the contents of the cards. One of the gifted people Rhine worked with was Uri Geller, an Israeli-born psychic who is well-known for his psychokinetic powers and has been performing in public for many years. In front of thousands of people he bends spoons and other metal objects with a few light strokes or taps.
Many other examples of paranormal events have been reported, such as Jesus Christ who healed the sick or Jose Arigo who performed psychic surgery with amazing results. It is reported that he could remove tumors and other surgical operations without the patient feeling the pain of the incision or the wound getting infected. He was arrested for practicing medicine illegally but continued to treat people while incarcerated.
Whether we believe in these miracles or not, one thing is for sure – these people are clearly evolving new skills that one day could become commonplace. Learning to manage these powers wisely will be the real challenge for society.