Understanding what consciousness is, and why and how it evolved, is perhaps the greatest mystery known to science.
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For most of the Earth's history, life consisted of the simplest organisms; but then something happened that would give rise to staggering diversity, and, ultimately, life as complex as that which we see today. Scientists are still struggling to figure out just what that was.
2015 • Nature
When examining the adolescent brain we find mystery, complexity, frustration, and inspiration. As the brain begins teeming with hormones, the prefrontal cortex, the center of reasoning and impulse control, is still a work in progress. For the first time, scientists can offer an explanation for what parents already know -- adolescence is a time of roiling emotions, and poor judgment.
The adult brain is the apotheosis of the human intellect, but what of emotion? The study of emotion was once relegated to the backwaters of neuroscience, a testament to the popular conception that what we feel exists outside our brains, acting only to intrude on normal thought. The science has changed: Emotion is now considered integral to our over-all mental health. In mapping our emotions, scientists have found that our emotional brain overlays our thinking brain: The two exist forever intertwined.
For most of human history, our brains dealt with pretty straight forward problems. But that brain is the exact same one we now use to post pictures of our pets on social media, fill out Excel spreadsheets, and worry about the next payment on our credit card.
How does the creative brain work? Nancy Andreasen, neuroscientist and neuropsychiatrist, has spent her life studying the relationship between brain function, mental illnesses and the emergence and continuance of creativity.
A new generation of technology is revolutionizing neuroscience, allowing a closer study of the brain than had ever seemed possible. The techniques are hybrids of optics, genetics, and synthetic biology with the ability to manipulate brain activity, often in real time. Through direct stimulation of neural connections, some of these techniques hold the promise for the treatment of diseases like depression or schizophrenia.