10: We are Born unfinished?

Immediately following our birth, we humans are totally helpless. We spend almost about a year unable to walk, about two or more before we can express our thoughts, and many more years unable to fend for ourselves. We are inevitably dependent on those around us for our survival.

But why?

The answer lies in the way our brains are wired.

Wired-Brain

Hardwired Vs Live wired.  

Now let’s compare this to many other mammals. Dolphins, for instance, are born swimming; giraffes learn to stand within hours; a baby zebra can run within forty-five minutes of birth.

csa

Across the animal kingdom, our counterparts are strikingly independent soon after they’re born. On the face of it, that seems like a great advantage for other species –but in fact, it signifies a limitation. Baby animals develop quickly because their brains are wired up according to a chiefly preprogrammed routine. Yes, they are born genetically preprogrammed, or “hardwired” for certain instincts and behaviors. Genes guide the construction of their bodies and brains in specific ways that define what they will be and how they will behave.

But that preparedness trades off with flexibility.

Imagine if some hapless rhinoceros found itself on the Arctic tundra, or on top of a mountain in the Himalayas, or in the middle of a dense urban environment. It would have no capacity to adapt (which is why we don’t find them in those areas).

This strategy of arriving with a pre-arranged brain works inside a particular niche in the ecosystem –but put an animal outside of that niche, and its chances of thriving are low. In contrast, humans can thrive in many different environments, from the frozen tundra to the high mountains to bustling urban centers.

neural-pruning_medImage showing the change in the neural wiring pattern over time ( Live Wiring)

This is possible because the human brain is born remarkably unfinished. Our Brain comes into this world only with some amount of genetic hardwiring (for example, for breathing, crying, suckling, caring about faces, and having the ability to learn the details of their native language). Thus, instead of arriving with everything wired up –let’s call it “hardwired” –a human brain allows itself to be shaped by the details of life experience. This leads to long periods of helplessness as the young brain slowly molds to its environment. It’s “Live wired”.

 

The human brain’s ability to shape itself to the world into which it’s born has allowed our species to take over every ecosystem on the planet and begin our move into the solar system…..

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