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Soubresaut's avatar

Would we be smarter if our brains were more interconnected?

Asked by Soubresaut (13709points) December 12th, 2010

I know that the different parts of out brain do talk to each other, but only to a certain extent. We’ve still got separate, compartmental information and processing.

Here is the link to a 20/20 show, “7 Wonders (part 4)—Daniel Tammet”, if you’re not familiar with him.
He has an incredible mind, and I don’t want to take away from it in any way. I know it’s much more complex than one concept.
But, it was one concept that caught my attention: synaesthesia, at the 3:00 mark. It’s a very brief explanation, but it got me wondering a bit.

Synaesthesia is a condition where the different brain regions do talk to each other, where they cross over quite a bit.
Tammet’s explanation of how he thinks about math, I can’t even fathom. It’s not numbers he sees, but images.
I’m not saying I think everyone should think exactly like him. It’s just, this one ability of his, of his brain, to be able to communicate more fully with itself—this isolated function—it seems to only help him.

And it got me wondering, why most brains don’t work that way, too. Wouldn’t any increased amount of communication only help our minds? Rather than having everything so seperate and cut apart, having a wonderful mesh of everything as it collides together, colorful and vivid. It seems like the compartmentalizing is only putting up walls and barricades.

It’s the way our society(ies) more or less approach life, too. Dividing things, sorting things. We teach specified, separated subjects in school. We work in specialized, specific jobs. We’ve got art fields and science fields. Numbers, letters, pictures. All, for the most part, very distinct in their differences.

I’m straying…

My question:
Why are our brains so divided and separated?
Can we work to make them more connected?
Wouldn’t combining our personal capabilities, rather than isolating them, only make us smarter and more able? Like people can create more when we work together, our minds could create more when its parts work together?

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11 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Part of the division is for built-in redundancy. In case of injury, other parts of the brain can help take over the functions of the injured parts.

Nullo's avatar

Not all cross-feeding is beneficial, either. Synaesthesia has its share of drawbacks.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There has to be a reason that this is the way it came to develop – our bodies have evolved with trade offs in order to become the way they are – we don’t always have what’s ‘better’ – it’s only about reproducibility and survival of offspring. Although, one can argue that a person with more cross-talk can possibly have an advantage there but as @Nullo (and I agree with him), the advantage might not be so advantageous after all.

wundayatta's avatar

What is smarter? I think that our brains already have more than five billion connections. They are already vastly interconnected. Would more connections make us smarter, whatever that is? Probably.

However there may be good reasons to compartmentalize our brains, as well. We have some redundancies in case parts of our minds get hurt. Other parts of our minds can take on some of what the necrotic tissue used to do.

At one point, I thought you were going in a different direction than you were. I thought you were talking about the differences between specializing or generalizing. As if having more brain connections could help you learn more in more areas of knowledge.

JLeslie's avatar

I think people who are very intellgenet probably do have more connections. Part of being smart and analytical is being able to find a file of information in your brain. Smart people are good at storing infomation and having the information relate to different things. So, even if a topic is brought up that has never been discussed before a smart person can call on other information they have learned before to understand the new info. Of course there are people who do not score very high on IQ tests, but are simply brilliant in a specific realm, that is a different thing. I am just talking about kind of the old school definition of IQ.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@marinelife is correct.

The internet is the closest model to a brain that humanity has ever encountered. Imagine if the internet all tied into one central server, and that server crashed… bye bye.

Redundancy is key to survival.

ETpro's avatar

Thanks for the link. Daniel Tammet is certainly a fascinating person. Who among us wouldn’t want more of our brain parts talking to one another if it let us learn a language as difficult as Icelandic in one week? But note that he cannot drive a car because there is too much going on for his highly interconnected brain to handle. But still, it certainly makes us wonder if we can learn some of the secrets that let him do such amazing feats of thought. Will the unique powers he has ever be harnessed.

Strauss's avatar

Reminds me of a CAT-scan study done years ago. I don’t remember who did it, so I can’t cite the actual study…

The researchers took CAT-scans of musicians while the subjects were listening to music. When music was played for those who were formally trained, or who would be more likely to learn a piece of music from a written score, the left, or the analytical, side of the brain showed activity, Those who learned to play informally, or who would be more likely to learn by ear, showed activity on the right, or the intuitive side of the brain. However, when music was played for those who had learned through a combination of formal and informal, the neurons seemed to light up all over the brain.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’d like a switch where I can connect and disconnect different portions at will. That would offer the best of both worlds. If I wanted to learn language in a week I might stop another ability, like the ability to drive a car, or work on an engineering problem. This would be temporary but the language ability would remain.
Now I just need to find a good place to put the switch.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yetanotheruser I think it was probably a PET scan.

Strauss's avatar

@JLeslie You might be right. I first heard about it back in the 1980’s.

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