I bet you’re sitting there right now wondering how the Number One breakthrough in Neuroscience last year might impact the joy and divinity in your life.
Let’s start here: Many of us have had this experience I’m guessing – we’re driving to or from the office or the grocery store and just as we park the car we realize that we haven’t been aware of anything much in the world around us that we passed along the way. We completely missed the moonwalking gorilla that was dancing with the basketball players; we missed the change of clothes, backdrop and table cloth the card hustlers perped out on the street; and we had absolutely zero awareness of the banana in the mirror disappearing as we sat at a stoplight.
What’s up with that? When did we learn to pay such poor attention to things happening around us in the moment? Well, the good news is that we’re not alone. Neuroenergetic Theory posits that all of us are subject to attention deficit to one degree or another, depending upon things like time of day, what’s going on around us, who we’re interacting with, etc. That’s the good news, and … the first impact the No. 1 Breakthrough might have on your life: we’re not alone in our proclivity for being easily distracted or going unconscious.
The Good Bad News
The bad news? Well, consider this scenario: you volunteer for an afternoon experiment at your local neuroscience lab. These guys actually did some astonishing research last year. They open up your skull and implant a number of electrodes in different areas of your brain. Then, one by one they fire a few millivolts of electricity into each of those areas. The whole process takes about three hours. When it’s over and you’re all patched up and put back together and ready to be sent home, your question for the team leader is, “Will this experiment take long? I’d like to be home in time for dinner.” In other words, you somehow managed to not be present and accounted for in the least during the whole three hours. Where did you go?
Nowhere, actually. You were right there, wide awake in the lab the whole time. The only difference between your time here in the lab and your time driving to work, is mostly the degree of present-moment awareness, of consciousness. In the lab, the neuroscientists managed to take that awareness all the way down to … zero.
How did they manage to accomplish that? Very simply – one of the electrodes they implanted was placed in your brain’s claustrum.
Which leads to the second impact this finding might have: We are very likely to have endogenous (brain-generated) electrical signals stimulate our own claustrums and make us go completely unconscious for micro-moments throughout any day. And we would often not know it.
Making the Hard Problem Less Hard
But what does zero consciousness have to do with joy and divinity, you might ask. Determining the neuronal basis of subjective experience, cognition, wakefulness, alertness, arousal, and attention – if and where these processes actually live in the brain and body – is generally considered to be “The Hard Problem in Consciousness.” No lesser a mind than Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick’s, co-originator of the double helix model of genetic structure, placed his bet that the seat of consciousness would be found in the claustrum. Why? Because its anatomy is quite extraordinary in that it has neural fibers that send and receive input back and forth from almost all regions of the cortex. It’s the central connecting hub – the Grand Central Station of the brain. It’s the King of the Rich Clubs.
But notice something about such networks like the ones on the left: once the nodes are well-integrated and mostly connected, it only takes one crucial connection – the horizontal one that connects the blue nodes – to turn a non-rich-club network into a Rich One.
So, here’s the 3rd impact last year’s research finding might have on your life – because of the way networks operate, each new connection increases the potential – much like the old Christmas tree lights where, once you find the blown or missing bulb and insert the necessary new one, the whole string lights up – a single, crucial Rich Club neural connection could set your whole network ablaze. And when that has happened historically, my intuitive sense is that human saints were the result.
Does that crucial connection have to take place in the claustrum? Perhaps. But again, my intuitive hunch – with little evidence-based research to support it – is that such a crucial connection has to take place in the physical neural fibers residing in the 10th cranial nerve – the vagus nerve. And my hypothesis is that node connection has to involve the physical wiring between the brain and the heart. And when it does, I suspect we no longer have any trouble paying exquisite, joyful, divinely focused attention. Simply think about the last time you fell in love.