Stephen Hawking once said that –
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Many people out there who believe in a God, or have a religious mindset would often credit the creation of life as a miracle performed by a supreme power or Being. A ‘God’ which differs from religion to religion. That He has had planned it all out, and has set everything in motion from the beginning of time. But I, having an agnostic outlook, believe that life, as we know it, is the result of extensive and sophisticated evolution. Charles Darwin, or whom we know better as the Father of Theory of Evolution, concluded On the origin of species with the words: ‘There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’
One of the most beautiful result that Evolution has had produced is the Human Brain. To discuss every aspect of the brain is intriguing, but that would be a discussion containing a great deal of philosophy, in-depth scrutinising and perhaps intense, heated arguments. But that affair we set aside for another day. Now, life started as a single cell performing all the functions for survival and propagation. The ever-changing environment demanded modifications. Thus more cells had to added for better execution of functions such as protection, movement etc. In short, thus formed were tissues, and further division of cells resulted in the formation of organs.
The nervous system also emerged in more or less the same way and of course, the central organ of the human nervous system, the brain. Planarian is an example of an organism with a primitive model of the brain. Coming back to the point, during the primordial days of the evolution of the human brain, the modifications of functions increased the size and complexity of the brain. Size of the brain increased further with the addition of non-neuronal elements like glia which support neurons. Three functional compartments can be recognised during the early organisation of the nervous system. The Somatic, which was responsible for the voluntary functions, the Autonomic for the involuntary functions and lastly, the Neuroendocrine which functioned somewhat like the Pituitary Gland. Anyhow, the brain is evolved maximum in humans, with a very sophisticated and extremely fragile framework.
In a plead not to preach a sermon, I would like to end by saying our understanding of the brain is still in its infancy although a vast amount of information has been accumulated in the past century.