More on how cool the brain is

The Brain Rules video has been making the rounds.  Justin shared it last week in his welcome return to the blogosphere.

It’s it the viral edu-video du jour and for good reason.

Then today I came across this intriguing article by Jeanna Bryner from  You may have come across it in the Yahoo! Featured headlines.

The brain is simply amazing.

The article describes Foresight Theory and the work of Researcher Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.  His research and theory offer an explanation for why optical illusions do what they do to our minds.  But it also throws out there, that people can ” get a glimpse of events one-tenth of a second before they occur.”

We can see the future.

According to the article, scientists have long known about the one-tenth of a second delay between when light hits the retina in the eye and when the brain is able to make meaning of the image.  Early explanations theorized that our motor systems compensated.  

Changizi now says it’s our visual system that has evolved to compensate for neural delays, generating images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future. That foresight keeps our view of the world in the present. It gives you enough heads up to catch a fly ball (instead of getting socked in the face) and maneuver smoothly through a crowd.

How cool is that?

The brain always amazes me and the potential of it seems limitless – listen to some of Medina’s examples in the Brain Rules video.  

Reading this article, my thoughts drifted back to the movie Phenomenon with John Travolta.  In the movie, Travolta’s character, George sees a blinding light and then gains incredible thinking skills, eventually leading to the fantastic telekinesis.

(SPOILER ALERT – com’on the movie is 12 years old!)  

For most of the movie everyone believes it was some alien force that gave him this power.  Eventually, they discover that George has a massive tumor that while killing him has also created completely new pathways and neural connections in his brain.

Okay, to my point – I loved George’s response, knowing he was dying.  He said, that he would choose the tumor explanation over the alien one, because it spoke to the potential of humanity.


“I’ll tell you what I think I am…. I’m what everybody can be.” — George Malley (JOHN TRAVOLTA) (found here)

Maybe the Foresight theory is a desperate stretch, or maybe Changizi is on to something.  

Either way, the brain continues to amaze.  

And we need to keep trying to tap that potential.

by Paul Hollingworth

Image: “UNICEF//Potential“, by Paul Hollingworth, found at Flickr Creative Commons


3 thoughts on “More on how cool the brain is

  1. Wow Dan, great post. I love the image and the reminder that we have no idea what our full potential might be.

    I’d like to think that potential realized would lead to a sharing of resources without violence, greed, or fear. If we could only see into our past and recognize a wealth of resources from an appreciated planet. . .

    But maybe I’ve been watching too many Star Trek episodes on the plane.

    That long since Phenomenon? How long since Contact? 🙂

  2. Alicia,
    The potential continues to amaze me. I’m all for the world you describe. Education is the only way we’ll get there.

    Thanks, for reading.


  3. Not sure why the trackbacks aren’t showing, but here’s a nice post linked to this one with some nice resources.

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