Jake Richardson 7 September 2018

Smart and Crazy Brains


Neuroscience seems to be getting more and more press these days. A new article about a promising treatment for Alzheimer's or some happiness or gratitude insights may be published every other day. What to make of all of it is anyone’s guess -- perhaps it even becomes a bit overwhelming or at least confusing. After all these years of being human, just 200,000 or so, we still don’t appear to know that much about our own brains!

Yet our brains are responsible for creating our realities for us and they do this at least partly automatically. We don’t seem to have that much say in the matter. Maybe if we all use our noodles a little more to study just what a brain is and what its functions are we will be better at arriving at a greater awareness. Then, we will appreciate that reality is something we co-create with our brains and can influence it in many moments of our own lives. The following six films may help us get there.

The Centrifuge Brain Project (Directed by Till Nowak)

This fictional documentary is hilarious in the subtle way it treads the boundary between realism and fantasy. We notice the rides are not real because they seem unrealistic, but who decides what rides are made and how far they go to provoke reactions? This film also calls into question experimenting on real humans in various studies, and riffs on the ‘mad scientist’ theme. At one point, the main researcher says, “We’re only using 10,000 horsepower now.”

Bluebrain: Markram’s Vision (Directed by Noah Hutton)

Trying to build a sentient simulation of the human brain on supercomputers sounds like quite a daunting task. Some people might be upset by the goal itself -- ‘playing god etc.’ This very short film is the preview to the next one below.

Bluebrain: 7-year Preview (Directed by Noah Hutton)

This film digs into the Human Brain Project and issues like funding and goals. It seems to almost be exposing a Pandora’s box of issues. Brain research is conducted in many countries not only the US and fortunately the filmmakers traveled to Germany to depict research their too. Leadership issues, technical limitations, it seems the project will fail. However, making the attempts is a great success.

Adult Mouse Brain Showing Pyramidal Neurons (Directed Nicolas Reiner)

This very brief film is more like fly by through neural structures in an adult mouse brain. The level of detail is illuminating and reveals the great complexity of what is a relatively small brain.

Visualizing Cross Fibers (Directed by Sjoerd Vos)

This is a very short film which depicts various structures in the brain and gets at their connections. In a sense, we might come away with how much brain tissues resembles ‘wires’ though the structures are obviously made of cells.

23 Degrees, 5 Minutes (Directed by Darragh O’Connell)

Some animated films are mesmerizing and this one is no exception. The story traces the transcendence of an intellectual to a more spiritual position.

About the author

Jake Richardson has enjoyed the outdoors and nature since he was 6-years-old in the woods of central Illinois and now lives in California not far from the John Muir house.


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