How are thoughts physically allocated in the brain?


How are the thoughts? Are they electric impulses? They get allocated to what part of the brain, and how do they get allocated?

In: Biology

The science isn’t totally settled on how brains work, but what we do know goes something like this:

Each part of your brain relates to something specific. The smaller the part of the brain, the more specific the task (such as a tiny speck in your visual cortex being responsible for seeing *only* vertical lines). When you think of something, all the relevant parts of your brain light up in a cascade, each adding in their parts of your thoughts.

Memories, by contrast, are the at least partially the connections between neurons and the larger structures. There’s a saying that goes “Nerves that fire together wire together,” meaning that any time two components of your brain activate at the same time, under the same circumstances, the connections between those parts strengthen, thus making it more likely in the future that if one activates, the other will also activate. If you see fire and touch it, then get burned, your brain will wire the visual image of that fire to the memory of that pain, and thus you will think “fire burned me” every time you see fire.

Of course, it’s immensely more complex than this, but that’s the basic idea.

I think this is a philosophical question. Philosophers call it the mind-body problem, and there has never been any consensus on an answer.

There *are* popular theories based on new neuroscience. But these aren’t fundamentally new answers; they’re just more detailed versions of the old idea that thoughts (along with every other phenomenon) are physical. To other philosophers that just begs the question.

The book “Neurophilosophy” by Patricia Churchland is an early example of the physicalist position. Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos” is a newer example of the critical position.