When asked how the brain works or is it the mind? Many do not know the difference between your brain and the mind. After all, they are often used interchangeably. If I asked you to point to your mind, and then to point to your brain, you’d probably show the same place.
When somebody is mentally ill, a layperson may say that they are “out of their mind,” while a doctor might say there’s just something wrong with their brain. As you’ll see, exploring this question brings us into understanding not only the answer to the title question but also the issue of body and soul.
Let’s get some basics out of the way how the brain works. Hopefully, the following something we all agree on. Your brain is that pink mass of muscle that sits inside your skull. It is a collection of electrical impulses, neuron firings, and home to a wide variety of receptors that react to what we put in our bodies. Also it regulates our heartbeat, breathing, hunger, and sleep cycle. It is our information processing unit.
The brain also takes information from our sensory inputs and interprets it. Our brains are the hard drive on which our memories are stored. As you can see, to call the brain a computer is not an exaggeration.
How the Brain and Mind Work Together
If we know how the brain works, is it the mind that controls things? If the brain is the computer, then the mind is kind of like the monitor. That’s where images appear. When someone asks you to picture something, say, your mother-in-law (I don’t know) in your mind’s eye, your first instinct is probably to close your eyes and imagine her image. Is it the mind? Yes. The mind is home to your sensations. Pain, pleasure, fear, and hope exist in the mind, that’s how the brain works.
While your brain is just a hunk of flesh, your mind is the infinite inner world that exists in your head. Not only that, it’s where those sensory signals interpreted by your brain end up. It is where every feeling you’ve ever felt was felt (including the feeling of feeling felt).
But there is obviously a relationship between how the brain works and the mind. After all, you point to the top of your head to show how your brain works and the mind. The primary difference is that the brain is a physical thing, while the mind is not. Because of this, the mind is only directly observable by oneself.
Think about it, you’ve never seen somebody else’s mind, have you? You probably haven’t seen anybody else’s brain, either, but that’s beside the point. Your mind is only understood directly by you. That is the origin of the famous phrase “I think, therefore I am,” from philosopher Rene Descartes, because if one has a brain (I think), then they must exist (Therefore I am), or is it the mind?
How the Brain Works or Is It the Mind…or the Soul?
When you start to understand the differences between the brain and mind. You are nipping at the heels of a much more ancient question. What is the relationship between the body and the soul? Honestly, our title question is just the contemporary, scientific way of asking that very ancient question.
It goes to show that, despite our massive technological and medical advancements, we are still asking the same questions that are practically as old as history itself.
Sleep, the Brain, or Is It the Mind?
It seems reasonable enough to assume that someone cannot have a mind without knowing how the brain works. It also seems fair enough to believe that you can have a brain and not have a mind. Think about someone who is in a coma or someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. Or even just when you’re sleeping! What happens when you sleep, does your mind just turn off? It seems to be.
Sometimes it flutters on in the form of a dream. At some point, however, every night, our minds kind of disappear. Remember, your mind is not a physical thing, that’s your brain. Your mind is the immaterial collection of your experiences, and every night, when you go to sleep, it dissipates into oblivion. And when you wake up, it reconstitutes, all of a sudden.
But now, even though you know how the brain works, you still can’t really answer, or is it the mind? Or why we have a mind at all! We have thought for years that animals with brains the size of pinheads don’t feel or think about all that much.
However, we really don’t know how the brain works or if its the mind so animals very well be more advanced then us. We just don’t really know how the brain works at all. It all comes back to that ancient question, why do we have a soul?
We just don’t know, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to figure it out.