I ntroduction to C onsciousness

T he human brain is a vast and mysterious place. Our brains have an estimated 100 bil- lion neurons (nerve cells) firing 5 to 50 times every second. Brains are wired for intelli- gence, emotion, creativity, and sensation.While scientists have learned a lot about how the brain functions, the gray matter between our ears still holds many secrets. Today, we know that different areas of the brain are responsible for different activities. Even when you’re doing nothing, your brain is active—controlling your heart rate, breathing, and other bodily functions. Many aspects of how the brain works remain unanswered. For instance, how exactly do we store memories? Why are some people smarter than others? Why do we experience emo- tions? Ten percent of the brain is made up of the neurons or nerve cells that do the actual thinking (the gray matter), and about 90 percent of the brain is constructed of glia cells (white matter) that support the neurons. Some say that we have tapped only a small fraction of the brain’s potential. This book looks at some of the more mysterious phenomena related to our consciousness and unconsciousness, along with the science that might explain these phenomena. The con- scious brain processes awareness and rational thought. The unconscious mind holds the feel- ings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our consciousness. Some scientists and psychoanalysts (followers of Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychology) see dreams as a window into the unconscious mind. Dreams have intrigued people since ancient times, and they still do.Why do we sometimes have vivid but unreal dreams? Why do some dreams seem to come true in real life? Did you know that some brains seem to be able to see the future? People have reported having visions predicting future events—from Lincoln foreseeing his as- E xploring T he M ysteries O f T he M ind



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