Week 9: Wiring the brain

The mapping of the human brain seems like such a daunting task. It’s fascinating how the brain is built into such a complex structure. The instructions for creating the necessary facilities for housing a human mind come in DNA, but forming the brain functions that we have come to expect from human beings require external input. This is good for robustness, since it makes it easier to adapt to different environments, and also makes it possible to use parts of the brain for different things depending on if something has become damaged or unused.

It’s a scary notion that many important parts of the brain system don’t regenerate. The fact that there could be some potential for treatments that would facilitate axon regrowth is encouraging. With different development periods and factors such as cell death, there is a feeling of finality in forming the brain. It’s reassuring that through synaptic plasticity its possible rearrange the wiring somewhat. Disorders of the brain can potentially be treated and new skills learned, even later in life. However, problems can also rise because of the plasticity, as a temporary reduction in activity can lead to loss function that is hard to gain back. I did not notice discussion of this in the course book, but I would speculate that new fears and traumas are easier to acquire during the stages when the brain has more plasticity. In that sense, in some ways it might be advantageous as an adult to have a more stable brain.