The book I just finished reading was Susan Greenfield's pioneering book named ‘’ The Quest for identity in the 21st Century.’ One among the key points that she addresses is on the pervasive nature of the new age technologies, and the impact of the two dimensional world of cyberspace on human lives. The sensory experience from the cyber world is affecting the neural networks of our brain functioning, changing the way we think and behave . The development of a culture of instant gratification among the new generation is one such attribute of this change.
The subsequent chapters are on the functioning of the brain and the analogy of the brain’s synaptic functioning to human relationship and societies. She argues that mind is a construct of the brain and is an identity created by it from the interplay of various electro chemical agents called neurotransmitters. She explains on the neural networking which gives us the sensation of love, hatred and other emotions, and the way modern day drugs play a pivotal role in modulating these networks, in particularly on serotonin and dopa mine, the vital neurotransmitters which control our feelings and well being.
Another area of discourse is on the emerging threat of neuro degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. While explaining the chemistry and pharmacology of these diseases the author is vary of the consequence of these diseases on human life and the need to develop technologies which can arrest such neuro-degeneration .
In addition she touches upon the concept of plasticity of the brain which is called long term potentiation (LTP) , where synapses reacts to the repetitive environment , beliefs and practices and mutes its neural networks accordingly . It helps us heal from prayers, change our mind set and manage pain. The music that you hear, relationship which you nurture and the way you think and live is managed by a series of neural activation.
She also touches upon creativity and brain chemistry, citing the example of VanGog the insane painter who cut his own ears. People with psychic disorders like Schizophrenia which is induced by excessive dopamine in certain regions of the brain and that of major depression which is caused by serotonin deficiency, shows a higher level of creative thinking . In fact most of the creative thinkers and scientists have had episodes of depressive disorders.
This pioneering book brings into focus the need for mankind to prepare for a change induced by the interplay of the brain and the environment, and set the tone for the new ‘evolution’ of the human race.