Where is identity in our brain?
What is the "I"?
Artificial enlargement of the body
Whether the strong conviction of our identity is inevitably linked to the body or not: In any case, the body seems to be linked to the sense of self due to its possibilities of expression. It is the most important and most direct instrument of our actions.
But even in this function the relationship between body and "I" can be shifted. This is shown, for example, by studies on blind people who habitually use a white cane for orientation: After a certain time, the cane is often perceived as a kind of part of the body.
These shifts are even more extreme in an experiment in which brain waves are measured for different thoughts:
The different activity patterns that arise in the brain when a test person thinks "I take my arm up" or "I take my arm down" can be recognized by the scientists and translated on a computer in such a way that the corresponding thought can be found with a cursor. Movement on the screen is linked.
In this way, test subjects can control a simple computer game with just their thoughts. The already spectacular construction of the experiment had a side effect for many test subjects: after a while they felt the cursor on the monitor as part of themselves.
To control or to be controlled?
The term "I" cannot be clearly clarified psychologically either. Most scientists agree that the "I" is not a constant variable, but rather consists of various factors that can also change and differ in their composition and weighting.
But there is no general definition of the term. Which seems astonishing when you consider how present the feeling of our own identity is to us.
Most mentally healthy people experience the "I" as the control center of themselves. But brain research has not been able to identify such a point in the brain areas and it is highly probable that there is no fixed ego point in the brain.
Rather, there are many different regions of the brain that communicate with each other and thus create self-awareness. The so-called "Default Mode Network" (DMN) is particularly important among these regions. This is a group of brain areas that is more active when we are not dealing with the outside world but with our own thoughts and memories.
The studies of brain research also show that there is no evidence that the "I" precedes other brain functions. Our everyday feeling "I have a brain that I use" could be reformulated by scientists in the opposite: The brain creates an "I" because it connects a certain function to it.
Some neuroscientists are of the opinion that the brain has developed an "I" because it has greatly improved human survivability: The "I" becomes an underfunction of a highly complex system, the brain.
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