Brain: What for?

Elson de Araujo Montagno, MD, PhD

Yes, we have a brain: for the command of the body and the control of the mind. The body follows its development through levels of acquisition and support of motor, sensorial, and psychological skills.

Between the automatic and the unconscious, the body follows its natural trajectory, except when we control its actions through our mind.

And we do that with the use of our will, which stems from our instincts regulated by our ideas. The human brain has two hemispheres - the right and left sides. One side specializes in the objective, rational, and mathematical functions (left hemisphere); the other side, in the subjective, intuitive, artistic function (right hemisphere). The two hemispheres communicate with each other through a bridge, the corpus callosum, so that we can exist with the main characteristics of a human being, having self-consciousness.

The brain cells are of a varied nature. One group, called the glia cells, give the infra-structure and operation conditions of feeding, safety, and support so that a second group, the neurons, can work in the nervous sense, practically, by promoting mobility, sensibility, and consciousness.

The world is full of people. They are bodies with their needs and skills, and they are minds with their wills and ideals. Thus, we are an organic world of people who achieve work and have ideas in a growing organized way, though somewhat unconscious of its whole unity.

We are a planetary society that works with the idea of globality since the last two world wars. Now we feel the impact from formerly remote countries, through the instantaneous information and the direct competiveness.

Thus, as a whole, society became aware of its other Oriental half. The conflicts we have just mentioned generated food, raw and industrial goods shortage, with destruction already "tested" on cities, paradise seas, deserts, and underground locations. Our conscience has been formed and increased by these critical moments.

The world can witness on-line the bombing of Bagdhad. On the planet Earth we learn with suffering and pain, as with our individual lives.

The Earth, the terrestrial globe the Greeks called Gaia, returned to the cultural scene with the sensible hypothesis that our planet is an alive being. For Gaia, who is bigger and older, as well as more honorable and stronger than us, both you and I are the same as one of its infinite circumstances.

When we look to Earth so that it fills our visual field, as if from outer space, we the humans are as invisible as are the cells of our body when viewed from a similar perspective.

From outer space, if we look to Earth with attention, we will see the lights from big cities shining in the night. We will see the human being's great realizations, as the wall of China, as big scratches.

Thus, when seeing from the outer space, in profile and tangentially to the horizon of this visual field filled by Gaia, the Earth's atmosphere is a thin bright blue skin colored by the oxygen produced by the cells of algae and green leaves.

Each tree is a benign cell on Gaia's body, the Earth. Analogously, we can identify skin, nails, fur, lungs, heart, artery, brain. Yes, a brain.

As a physician of the Neurosciences, I can't help but to observe a direct correlation between the individual human being, with its circumstances, and the Gaia, with its environment. Every intelligent human being is also like a cell on Gaia's body.

One nervous cell, which acts by impulses, which continuously discharges actions and reactions affecting the whole, which alters Gaia's skin, changing the protection given by trees and bushes; and which modifies its arteries, when polluting, drying, or holding rivers.

Believe me, I could continue to find similarities between the human and Gaia's bodies. However, as the brain fascinates me the most, I will concentrate myself on the challenge of this analogy in the brain, which is the organ of all mysteries.

Therefore, we, the agricultors, the shepherds, the workers, the priests, the judges, the businessmen, who promote the civilization, in a progressive way, who bring poetry, beauty, relief, the rituals, and illuminate the way with knowledge and wisdom. Thus we form a nervous whole, called humanity, who from the Occident to the Orient, two halves, congregate in a busy global fair.

Submarine cables, as nerves crossing viscera and members, and the satellite signals, which fill the atmosphere with the rustling of thoughts, call to the action each cell, organ, or system, in each one of us.

Thoughts, plans, dreams, anxieties, fears, pleasures. A vivacious brain from a being who is in a hurry, who has lots to do, as it knows there is a lot to perform. And for that to happen it has to survive and preserve life, globally.

Elson de Araujo Montagno is a neurosurgeon, doctor of Medicine by the Free University of Berlin, a former visiting professor of Harvard University, and a former professor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Campinas (unicamp) (Brazil).

Center for Biomedical Informatics
State University of Campinas, Brazil

Elson de Araujo Montagno, PhD

Copyright 1997 State University of Campinas