Feb 24, 2013

Welcome to the Connectome


It's possible to listen in Dutch. If someone speaks English when you are expecting Dutch, it can take a  few moments before you make sense of what they are saying, while get your head around the situation. The experience is like being a bit slow to get a joke; when you finally get it, it's like a light going on, illuminating. ...Or listening to new music; sometimes it takes a few plays to get your head around a new song.

Brains are made of densely packed neurons connected by synapses. Synapses between neurons are  formed by internal or external (sensory or mental) stimulus and are strengthened through repetition. Frequently used neural pathways develop into freeways providing highly efficient carriage from blooming buzzing stimulus to well-ordered perception. The aggregate connected network of synaptic pathways in your brain is called the Connectome.

The Connectome is the trace and impression experience has left on the genetic material of your brain. Different brains are perhaps genetically more or less impressionable to different stimulus, but the order and sum of life experience is critical to the shape of the Connectome. The Connectome is the physical manifestation of your personality, of your unique self.

I think of the Connectome as a network map, with different pathways lighting up as synaptic signals travel along them. When I am listening in Dutch, the connected pathways for Dutch language are lit up, letting me understand (what I have learned of it) automatically. If the language I hear turns out to be something else, then I must tune in to that other language, lighting up another pattern of pathways.

Tuning into a new pattern of thought, particularly if we are moving away from a well-established strongly connected, high speed pattern, can be as difficult and frustrating as trying to find an off ramp on a Los Angeles freeway.


If your interests include theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.