The Psychic Realm: Reverse Engineering the Brain

More Dream Theories tomorrow from Dr. C, but Michio Kaku is obsessed with the application of “impossible” physics to every day life, and today in the Psychic Realm, so I am I. He has a lot to say about reverse engineering the brain to understand seemingly “out there” psychic phenomenon, the soul, consciousness and teasing apart neural pathways to one day model (artificially) how all the things we think and sense and feel and don’t fully comprehend work. I’m taking copious notes, every time I dive into one of his books, as I build a contemporary fantasy world around three new Legacy novels. And I’m sharing, ’cause I can’t seem to help myself.

consciousness

I want to dive deeper into this science with my new family who are discovering they have latent, powerful psychic gifts. What could be better than to have the government’s “Center” taking apart the brain, neuron by neuron, so that computers and other technologies can simulate how empaths and the like do what they do. Imagine my love of Kaku’s books, as they talk about how possible something like this really is!

NeuralPathways

Basically modern neuro science is developing the ability to understand how the brain works, exactly the way a motor works. Which isn’t to say they’re all the way there yet.Take the separation of body and soul, for instance. How does science track that, and how much does the individual’s soul, that thing beyond physiology, impact what one brain can do over another? Is it the soul more than the physical parts of the brain that makes one mind gifted in the phenomenon that fringe science delves into?

soul graphic

MRIs can show us scans of the physical aspects of a working brain, but they so far can’t trace the specific neural pathways of thought, which involve thousands of neurons at a time. In my books, I’ll have psychics that can pinpoint those sorts of connections ;o) But what about in our “real” worlds? Enter Optogenetics.

optogenetics_summary

Optogenetics is a field that combines optics and genetics to tease apart and unravel the neural pathways that control behavior and thought and responses.  So far, scientists have begun to develop methods that should one day assist the recovery (rewiring) of brains of stroke victims, those suffering from diseased brain tissue, and TBI victims. Who knows how far this approach can be taken. Who knows what I’ll do with it in my novels. Bwahahahaha!!! The basic science of what they’re doing is now known–the only limitation so far is money and the amount of actual power that’s required to do this type of testing.

Power? Yep–because supercomputers are used in this kind of research, to simulate the work of BILLIONS of neurons, each connected to other neurons, and to locate them in the brain as they do their jobs. Simulating the thinking process of animals is their first step–animals with relatively simple brains and thought structures. Alas, the human brain is currently 20k times more powerful than the present supercomputers being used, with memory storage some 500 times greater than the size of the Internet.

To map the brain, EVER neuron must be located. But once scientists figure out how to do that, it’s still only the beginning (unless you have psychics working in your labs ;o), because then you have to figure out how all these billions of parts of the brain actually fit and work together. Otherwise, according to Kaku, all we’ll have is the equivalent of a dictionary of the human brain, with no definitions. In other words, until the consciousness of a human being can be taken into account, how thought and choice and decision actually works, simply knowing the location of each unique human brain neuron will only get us so far.

brain mapping

How do we sense and recognize things, using those billions of neurons?How are we self-aware (some of us)? How do we manage to plan for the future, instinctively and cognitively, and often ineffectively? And why do some animals have this well-developed sense of self-awareness and future time modelling, while most do not? THAT’s the kind of question series that spawns a whole host of ideas for a sci-fi/fantasy novel, not to mention making a geeky science girl smile as she reads!

The future of this kind of research seems to be roboticly replicating the human brain using artificial intelligence technology. Kaku mentions something called the “society of minds,” which suggest that consciousness is actually the sum of many separate “algorithms and techniques” that nature stumbled upon over millions of years. Which suggests, first, a randomness to all this I’m not completely buying. Then again, I’ve been looking into an alien intelligence theory that might also be fun to play with in my books, so I’m not exactly tied to everything I work with being provable. But also that within the brain’s neurons are collections of “mini brains” that are each designed to perform a specific task. And once those tasks are understood and decoded, then brain can be reverse-engineered to function better or more like another…

Cool! Don’t you think? Look for more of this in future Psychic Realm posts, as well as my Legacy novels (if I EVER stop reading and playing with theory long enough to finish the proposal my agent’s waiting for).

And if you’re geeked out and loving stuff like this, too, shout out in the comments or on FB, where I’m trolling regularly ;o)

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