Neuroscientist dick of Swaab: In heaven I am the first to admit that the definition of "consciousness" was wrong...

Neuroscientist dick of Swaab 30 years headed the Netherlands Institute of brain (being as it were a Dutch version of Natalia Bechtereva or Vice versa) and wrote the book "We are our brains", which was recently translated into Russian and raskatyvaete like hotcakes. And the doctor of Swab often happens in Russia.


— I would like to start with the selection of the most popular questions like "scientist from the layman". For example: after death, when I die to get my "I"? Not whether there will be something after me?

— Our "I" will die along with the brain because "I" is our brain. Our "I" is just a unique combination of a huge number of neurons. When stops the blood flow to the brain, the cells in a few minutes begin to die, and "I" disappears. And it is irreversible.


— I lied to you, it is a question not of the layman. Your colleague Natalya spondylitis shortly before his death talked about the possibility of some entities that cannot be perceived by the brain. Roughly speaking, it admits the existence of the soul and of God and life after death.


— Many people make the same! Any religion is based on the fact that something exists after our death. But I distinguish between consciousness and a product of this consciousness. Consciousness is the work of about 100 billion nerve cells. And the product is the result of these billions of cells, that is, in this case, the idea of what remains after death. And some believe that we will be after death to lead a life of disembodied, some of that we move to other bodies. As for me, in that sense I'm a pessimist.


— Doctor spondylitis you will not argue, but the man in the street asks the following question. How to explain that after clinical death, some see themselves floating above their own body — well, all these leading to light tunnels, etc.? I heard a story about his closest friend!

— Such feelings do sometimes arise when the so-called near-death States, in my book, I write about them. Moreover, if you conduct brain surgery without anesthesia, and using the electrodes to conduct the electrical stimulation zone on the border of the temporal and parietal lobes – it's called angularis, angular gyrus, people on the operating table begin to say, "Oh my God, I have decreased hand! I have reduced legs! I emerge from the body!" And they are really starting to see myself lying on the operating table... the fact that this area is very sensitive to lack of oxygen. But it processes information coming from muscles and joints to the Central nervous system. In other words, it identificeret body in space. And if the passage of signals from the extremities to the brain is disrupted, the brain starts to "draw" your own picture. I emerge from the body! I'm flying!.. As you can see, the mystical visions of the afterlife there is a logical explanation.


Thank you. You will need to tell a friend resuscitation... Then the next question is from the popular hit parade. What happens to us when we sleep and have dreams? Is it possible during sleep, the transition into a different reality and can dreams be prophetic?

— With us during sleep, there are a few things. First, roughly speaking, is cleaning up our hard drive. Because all information from our senses goes to our brain – but we remember only a very small part. Most of the information the brain recognizes and unnecessary during sleep simply erases. Note: in dreams there are always tiny fragments of what we did during the day, is the brain decides what to do and where to transfer our memories. And since the "picture" during sleep very realistic, many people believe that in the dream they go into another reality or foresee the future. The police have many times tried to use this information, but absolutely to no avail! Yes, and to predict the future is a much more difficult job than to watch dreams...


Yes, that is known to any player on the market... But another question from ordinary people. Than a woman's brain differs from the brains of men?

— It's really different brains! The male brain is larger in volume, but the metabolism of the female brain are higher — and there are a lot of structural and functional differences. Interestingly, in the female brain has more connections between the left and right hemispheres, and that is what we call "women's intuition". Woman easier links into a coherent picture of fragmented information. Immediately after birth the brain girls are easier included in social communication than the brain of a boy. Girls pay more attention to the face, and boys at moving objects, and this difference eventually disappears. Men prefer to deal with objects (that's why boys like cars and men's cars), and women with men (and for girls dolls same people).


— Well, then you would have received from the most ardent of feminists! They argue that because boys play with toy cars that parents don't give them dolls, and girls with dolls, no cars, but in fact child a blank sheet of paper, tabula rasa...

— I know quite a few people on Earth have no idea about the differences between the brains of men and women, but they see what toy the child picks! The theory of "clean sheet" is completely wrong. Differences between men and women being laid, in fact, even before birth. For example, our sexual orientation and gender identification – that is, we perceive ourselves as man or as woman – laid in the womb. The nature and type of human behavior 50% formed before birth, and further it is possible to speak only about the development or suppression of some shit... While I understand that this predetermination of nature, or sexual orientation many people, it is extremely difficult to accept. They think exactly the same as feminists: that we are born as a clean slate and anything you can write. But that's not true.


Now I understand why my wife, while driving, notices a new store has opened in the alley and who of pedestrians dressed. So, I wonder at her shout: "Watch out!"? And the man differently perceived road information than a woman?

— Just in the passenger seat is always terrible, because the passenger receives less information than the driver. And when I'm driving, I realize that for the most part I'm driving a car unconsciously. I make thousands of important decisions, driving automatically. And in the meanwhile think about something else. We do most of the things in our lives do automatically, but I think that consciously. And it's very good! We first trained to do some things, but reaching perfection, making them much faster and easier than if we were to think about them. That's why an unexpected situation on the road is so dangerous: we begin to think, what to do!

— Then I turn from ordinary people to the issues from the students of faculties of journalism. With them we discussed the book of Steven Pinker "the Language instinct", and the question arose: can the brain store information about the language of their ancestors? Can we suddenly "remember" a language that never spoke?

— No, language is just a perfect example of what we can not receive or transmit genetically. If breast Japanese or Chinese child of Western family to adopt, he formed the Western type brain. We learn language solely through the environment.


— Can we talk about the differences in the adult brain Asians and Europeans – or, say, the Communist and Democrat, liberal and conservative?

— This is a different group of examples. The propensity to liberalism or to conservatism is predetermined before birth, is like a predetermination of character. But between the brain of adult Chinese and adult Europeans do have differences. For example, in how they perceive visual images. This is due to the different learning and due to the different language of logic. In General, when people ask me what shapes the brain – heredity or environment? – I always answer: first, 100% heredity. But then turns on the environment: first chemical, and after the birth of and social.


— Another question from students: and would it be possible to download knowledge into the brain directly, bypassing the five years of study at the University?

— I don't see how we could do it. Because what we call "knowledge" is simply the changes that occur in the synapse, that is, between neural endings. And now imagine we have 100 billion nerve cells and each comes into contact with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of other nerve cells. And each new information coming into the brain, means new synaptic contact, moreover, different in strength! Absolutely no idea how you can take – and we cannot change or create millions of synapses. Namely, this means "load of knowledge".


— ...In General, for the session they will have to prepare. However, even the lowest ranking losers may fall in love. What is love from the point of view of the brain?

— Love is unconsciously taken a decision on the choice of a partner. I said that we unconsciously take in thousands of applications. And some of them are very successful, because without our participation processed all available to the brain for decision-making information. Love from the other unconscious decisions is release of the hormone dopamine, which causes a very pleasant feeling — as well as stress hormones. And only after several years, the level of stress hormones decreases, information on the selection of partners begins to processed by the cerebral cortex, and we are finally beginning to realize that the correct choice was made... That's why in some cultures – for example, the Indian partner for their children parents choose. Perhaps in this way they also make a mistake – but certainly different than we are.


— And now the questions from the experts: biologists, neuroscientists. What is a self-conscious "I" from the point of view of the brain? What in consciousness?

— Consciousness is the necessary process of interaction between the cerebral cortex and thalamus. The thalamus – this region of the brain where all information is processed from our senses. And this process, without which it is impossible consciousness, i.e. the awareness of oneself in the environment. It is a continuous process: we recognize ourselves or something in the environment in a tenth of a second, and then the information is updated. And this means that consciousness is dynamic. For example, if you hide your real arm, but instead show an artificial arm, repeating the movements of the present because it will be driven by the same signals that a real brain after some time, evaluating and processing information will come to the conclusion that artificial hand is real... So again: consciousness is a continuous process the brain processes information from our senses and from our body that tells us what we are, and that is our environment.


— Is it possible to create a valid computer model of the brain?

— You know, for ten years, there is a whole program, a huge program that brings together scientists from various countries of the West, whose purpose it is to create a model that incorporates everything that we know about the brain. From my point of view, it contributes to the research but not the creation of artificial brain. For the reason that we can include in the model only what we know. What we know about the brain quite a bit, most of do not know.


— Is it possible, in principle, transplantation of the brain in the sense in which a possible kidney transplant or heart?

It was already a done – in the sense that it was already transplantability small pieces of the brain. Their implanted people suffering from Parkinson's disease after which required less medication, improved physical activity and so on. But the problem, unfortunately, is that when such transplants survive in a very small number of brain cells. So it's still experimental, and not a routine method, confirmed by clinical trials. But in principle it is possible. Carried out, for example, experiments on destruction of the brain areas where animals are biological clock day and night for the animals has ceased to exist. And then the biological clock transplanted and they take root! That is the transplantation of individual brain structures is possible.

— From the point of view of the believer's soul is whole and indivisible, like a carrot. But from the point of view of the neuroscientist, our soul – rather, cabbage, consisting of many layers. And your colleague, an American neuroscientist, Ramachandran Vilayanur well describes as in the accident a person loses, for example, shame, keeping all the other qualities...

— Yes, but I would prefer instead of "soul" to use the word "mind"...


Okay. But if transplanting part of the donor's brain, whose mind the patient will eventually have?

One of the questions I ask in my book is this: how many parts of the brain need to transplant to your name you have added the name of the donor of the brain? After all, you transplanters with his brain and part of his character, right? This is not a problem when it comes to those microtransplantation, as in the case of treatment of Parkinson's disease, or transplantation of the biological clock. But if you transplanters part of the neocortex, the neocortex of the brain, you're together with this transplanters and part of the character of another person? Yes, it is a problem.

— Another question – from a professional neuroscientist. Why is the rate of passage of the electrical impulse in a neural network, is equal to only 120 km/h we, if necessary, take a decision immediately?

— I do not agree with this. The speed of thought is not so great – in the most elementary calculations, we are losing the simplest computers. But something we still do better than computers: e.g., recognize patterns. That is why a good diagnostician will recognize cancer symptoms for a millisecond and the computer. But I repeat: the brain is not faster electrical pulse. Although fast enough to carry out their tasks.

— And now a question from me personally. I was very interested in your assertion that human free will is usually an illusion. What we call "free choice", is often the explanation given in hindsight that was predetermined. It turns out, freedom is an illusion, it is simply not needed?

— Answer this: precisely because a person has little free will, we need freedom. We can't choose to be gay or heterosexually. We can't choose between small IQ and big — IQ of 88% depends on what we are genetically inherited. We can't choose which type we like, and what not. Almost everything is predetermined by heredity and conditions of development. But just because we do not choose, the only way to live with dignity is to live in accordance with how our brains are predefined. And this requires freedom of choice – as long as it does not interfere with the freedom of choice of others. And this freedom must always be – and when you select a job, and when choosing a sexual partner. And Spinoza said that the raison d'être of the state is to guarantee this freedom. But in some countries, unfortunately, still do not understand.


— Russian biologist and anthropologist Alexander Markov cites that the last 10 thousand years brain size decreases. He gives the explanation: the possession of excessive cultural meme after saturation of the cultural environment no longer provides advantages in the selection.

— I don't have any evidence that the size of the human brain has become smaller – at least in the last 40 thousand years. However, there is no any evidence that he became more. And 40 thousand years ago there was a beautiful cave painting, which today we can admire. So if 40 thousand years ago, we took the newborn and placed in modern society, he would have grown completely contemporary man. So don't worry!


Also interesting: pēteris kļava: If You feel bad, it's not the end. In the end all is well

Scientists about the brain: the best of TED talks with a Russian voice acting


— Thank you, doctor. It will be nice one day to meet in heaven and continue this conversation...

— Yes, in heaven I be the first to admit that the definition of "consciousness" were wrong...posted


Interviewed By Dmitry Gubin


P. S. And remember, just changing your mind — together we change the world! ©



See also

New and interesting