The Biology of the Mind

The discussion of the biology of the mind mainly focuses on the human concepts of the mind, consciousness and self-awareness. As human beings, we are conscious of the world around us since we can sense using the mind. This also makes it possible for us to tackle mentalism techniques. You can learn more about the training here. The discussion on this topic, however, seems to revolve on whether the mind is only reserved for humans, or whether it exists down the evolutionary scale. For example, is a dog conscious?

There are numerous definitions for the words “mind” and “consciousness”, but we can only get a clear understanding of the human mind by studying its evolutionary development.

Four Basic Survival Functions of Lifeforms

Lifeforms include animals, plants and microorganisms. These lifeforms have to perform four basic survival functions so as to cope with the surrounding environment. The survival functions include:

  • Obtain food
  • Grow in size
  • Procreate
  • Protect themselves from predators

The lifeforms use their external stimuli in order to perform these four functions. For instance, the external stimuli help them sense food in the surrounding, determine the perfect environment to grow, sense and identify mates to procreate, and sense when the predators are about to attack. The external stimuli are usually in any form of energy such as light, sound, magnetic, heat, electrical, mechanical, chemical and gravitational energies.

The stimuli in animals present themselves in form of light and sound, helping them sense food, mates and predators. They can also use special senses like the infrasound perception and ultraviolet detection. Plants usually use special senses like phototaxis for light, hydrotropism to reach the source of water, geotaxis to grow roots and thigmotropism to reach for support. For microorganisms, they sense their food using chemotaxis and avoid danger by employing mechanotaxis. Microorganisms procreate in favorable environments and sporulate in unfavorable environments.

Human beings also have various senses that help them perform numerous functions. The specials senses include:

  • Vision (light energy)
  • Hearing (sound energy)
  • Taste (chemical)
  • Vestibular function (gravitational)
  • Smell

The general senses include:

  • Pain
  • Touch
  • Vibration (mechanical energy)
  • Pressure
  • Temperature (heat)
  • Proprioception (geomagnetic)
  • Evolution of Nervous System

In order for all lifeforms to carry out their survival functions, they need to be aware of their environment. This basically means sensing the environment. However, awareness is only possible with the nervous system which makes it possible to perceive sensations in order to execute survival functions. The nervous system helps animals receive, process and store signals from the environment.

Evolution of Consciousness

Questions have been asked on whether consciousness is a result of just evolution or if there is something more. There has also been a discussion on whether consciousness is purely for humans or whether it also exists for some animals. Our awareness of things does not depend on their importance to us. For instance, you can be aware of very trivial things when driving a car and unaware of important things until something happens. This awareness is held in the nervous system to form memory which is known as consciousness.

Animals are not only aware of their surroundings, but they are also able to store this awareness in their memory for a period of time. Hence, all animals have consciousness and that is why they are able to search for food and run from danger. However, plants are only aware but not conscious of their surroundings. Unlike in plants, the nervous system of animals makes the response to stimuli fast and this helps in their survival.

All lifeforms desire to live Hence, they sense their environment in order to effectively perform their survive functions. All lifeforms have a characteristic of awareness. Since animals have the nervous system to store the awareness, they all possess consciousness.

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