Tuesday, December 7, 2010


As a sort of continuation of my previous post on Science and Spirituality, I've been thinking more about the way the brain functions. Fascination with the idea that people can re-wire their brain just by habitually thinking in a different way led me to look online and see what sort of research is happening in neuroplasticity. And I found something interesting:

At Stanford University, a study was done whereby they intentionally placed two genes of distantly related organisms into the brain of a mouse. They placed them on the neurons which controlled the motor functions of the mouse. These specific genes were triggered by light - yellow turned one off, and blue turned another on. The study was meant to see if the brain could be controlled if the proper 'on-and-off' switches were placed in the brain.

And what do you know?

So you could theoretically put these genes on any part of the brain and control its functioning. In humans, you could theoretically put these genes on the mood center of the human brain and make someone feel happy when they previously weren't happy before. An interesting consideration...

The consideration of humanity. If you can control the way a person feels, what at that point truly makes them THEM? Maybe it's not a question of whether or not they are still considered human, but are they the same individual if they aren't thinking the way the 'previous' individual thought? 

If the way they think, and therefore their behavior, is not in their complete control, is that the true definition of a person at all? Or is that an automaton, a hybrid-human that is controlled by external manipulation? Good question for Nazi Germany, hey? 

And as for the spiritual component - scientists such as the ones performing this experiment are likely under the impression that the mind exists only in the synapses of the brain, in the electrical impulses of the brain. More spiritual people, with a more dualistic mind-body sentiment, wouldn't agree with these assumptions, but what would be their explanation of this sort of experiment?

I'm conflicted, still. I can't imagine that the body and 'soul' are only a physical entity. Energy is visible in some ways, but also feels intangible in others. So it doesn't seem likely that we are only a physical body and we exist in no fashion other than being a physical corpse when we die. However, it also doesn't seem feasible that we are a completely separate soul and body, and our soul just evacuates our body when the physical self dies, and goes off to another type of existence. 

It definitely seems as though the character traits of the person would remain and be lost with the physical body, since the tangible neurons have created that personality, no matter the wiring or re-wiring. But that isn't to say something doesn't escape the body, in an energetic form. Maybe that's compatible with some people's view of the soul, though there may be a discrepancy on the level of consciousness believed to remain with that energy. 

Science is developing amazing technology more rapidly, specifically in regards to neurological manipulation. I can't wait to see, as technology increases and spirituality becomes less isolated and more integrated, what exactly this world is on the brink of. I wonder, as it becomes more imperative that we define the individual and the human, if this energetic entity called the soul will be 'found' with such clarity that it becomes a major, valid player in defining our Humanity - valid to the spiritual as well as scientific minds. 

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