The brain is one of the most fascinating puzzles known to humans and one cannot argue against that. Everything we do, see, hear and feel is controlled by the brain. We have full access to this two-and-a-half-pound tissue and water filled organ, but we struggle to understand what appears to be the simplest questions about it. Why do we dream when we sleep? What are emotions? How do we feel pain? How do we develop a skill? My journey to understanding the brain has been exciting, self-revealing, and I have come to realize that one can never fully catch up. So, I decided that writing ‘brain’ blogs about it would be a brilliant way to discover more for myself and share that information with many!
I would say I was inspired to dig deeper into the brain after a life changing experience when I was four years old. Riding in the back seat to school, I noticed what seemed to be a teenage boy being pushed in a wheelchair by his father, as he was unable to make the journey by himself. I learned later that he had Down Syndrome. That incident created a deep emotional moment for me. I still recall this powerful image. These memories are called episodic memories (ability to recall personal experiences) and fade away with time. Episodic memories typically include not only reexperiencing an event but also the context and emotions around that event. Thanks to Endel Tulving, a Canadian Psychologist, who introduced us to this term in 1972, we now understand memories better.
Did you know that by adolescence, we all typically forget the episodic memories that happened as a younger child? This is because our brain’s ability to store, connect and recall is dependent on some important development within the brain and that happens with time. So, as we grow, we lose many of our childhood memories. But I still seem to recall this one vividly! I felt what I would now call a feeling of helplessness when my mother told me that there are no cures yet for that teenager. Since then, I have also seen dozens of other children with a vast set of neurological conditions. These encounters make me sad, but curious to understand why we do not have “treatments” yet and explore how I can do something to help others learn more about these disorders. This curiosity and drive pushed me to understand the human brain, through books, courses, and research.
To bring it back to my main point, the brain has so many mysteries that we are yet to discover. But if I can understand what we now know and ask questions about the galaxy of unknowns, I am sure I can help find something new. Everyone has a starting point that triggers their passion and for me, it was that childhood experience in the car that triggered my curiosity to understand the brain.