6
$\begingroup$

Imagine a creature much like ourselves that can control the usage of their own mind.

For example, a dying ancestor may tell some parting words which are so important that the individual explicitly saves them in their mind, with no way of the memory fading unless it is consciously 'unremembered'.

Another example would be a life-threatening scenario that made the individuals purposefully increase the strength of their capabilities (e.g. less sensory filtering and more processing) at the cost of other memories and skills, which later would have to be re-learned.

Usually they have no need to take such drastic measures, and it may take a lot of learning and concentration to master (preventing children from accidentally damaging themselves).

Could such a brain be, at least in theory, possible? What drawbacks might there be?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Brain plasticity? Note that brain plasticity isn't infinite malleable it just a quick fix to compensate for loses but anyway still amazing... $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 15 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 brain plasticity is a constantly active feature. If you spend a lot of time as for example a postman or a similar job for which you have to travel a lot, the brain area that handles area memory and traversal will increase. If you stop that job, it'll decrease and the brain matter will be used for other tasks. Most of the brain does this, and compensation for loss of limb or brain matter is just one of the extremes. $\endgroup$ – Demigan May 15 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ Just in case I'm misreading the question, I'm going to suggest tag changes vs just applying them. I would remove mind-control as it's about controlling someone else's mind via magic or tech. And I'd put brain in its place. $\endgroup$ – Cyn May 15 at 14:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Cyn Absolutely! Wasn't expecting a [brain] tag, was looking for [neurology] $\endgroup$ – A Lambent Eye May 15 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ I wish there was a way to search for keywords in tag descriptions, but there isn't. $\endgroup$ – Cyn May 15 at 15:21
5
$\begingroup$

This is basically what the brain already does, but ramped up to 11 and in control of the conscious mind.

The problem is that this requires a very specific mind. During development your brain makes millions of connections with other parts of the brains, then at some point it starts to purposefully remove many of these, leaving the most used neural pathways and optimizing those. This accelerates thoughts as less energy and time is spend on what the removed pathways send around. Unfortunately this also means that if you want to use a brain segment normally used for storing a skill or memory for something else that there are few neural pathways connecting them. You would skip the neural pathway pruning and end up with a specific disorder: Autism. Now unlike popular opinion most people with autism arent unsocial people who scream at everything, in fact most people with autism are so good at learning to fake social interactions that they arent discovered even when they get unspecific psychological tests.

Then there is your idea for less sensory filtering. A suggestion is not to include that but shift it to a more specific sensory filtering, something the body already does. Talk about lice in front of people and the brain starts letting signals about itches through to the brain, signals that were filtered before. Gate theory (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_control_theory) is a part of this system.

Funnily enough, less sensory filtering is also a part of autism. Due to the "unnecessary" neural pathways and less filtering the brain is more easily overloaded, stuck trying to sift through all the information its bombarded with and unable to process more. The classical screaming autist that is practically a meme nowadays is one way this overload can express itself, its a (partially successful) coping mechanism to reduce the amount of sensory input, if only by making said input move away. More common though is unresponsiveness to outward stimuli or getting stuck performing a repetitive task to engage the conscious until the subconscious has figured everything out again.

Tl, dr: yes this is possible if you change the "less sensory filtering" into "more specific sensory filtering" and are willing to accept a partially autistic mind. Since your brain development would not have autistic filtering it would only think like an autist and suffer less from the negatives.

https://scholar.google.nl/scholar?q=advantages+of+autism+spectrum+disorder&hl=nl&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3DSC7pbf1B-WcJ

https://www.verywellhealth.com/top-terrific-traits-of-autistic-people-260321 Ignore the first point of "autistic people rarely lie", autistic people have trouble learning how to properly lie and get caught when they do, so they will stop trying to lie and tell truths. Your person would be able to learn lies.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

For what we know, reducing the sensory filtering just overloads the brain, leaving very few capacity left for any other task. It is more or less what happens in the Savant syndrome.

Savant syndrome is a condition in which someone with significant mental disabilities demonstrates certain abilities far in excess of average. The skills at which savants excel are generally related to memory. This may include rapid calculation, artistic ability, map making, or musical ability. Usually just one special skill is present.

What usually happens in time of needs is that the brain discards additional information. The savant syndrome cannot be voluntarily triggered, but I think you have seen that when people are deeply focused in something they might often miss other important information from the outside world (i.e. people hitting a pole while walking and looking at their smartphone).

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.