Mendi and the Brain
Overall role of the brain
The main function of our brains is to receive all of the information from the world (sights, sounds, smells, feelings, interactions, news), make sense of it, and then turn it into action. The way we use our legs or hands is pretty clear to us. How our brains actually work is much less clear. Think about all of the things you see and hear and feel and remember over the course of just one day - it’s enormous! Our brains process all of it.
Imagine throwing a ball back and forth with a friend. You move your arms to where you think the ball will be in order to catch it. It feels natural, but that process is actually quite complicated in your brain. Your brain has to combine many different inputs into one interpretation and action: the visual input of the ball’s trajectory, an understanding of how different objects move through space, the weather outside, your own energetic state, just to name a few. It then has to make a prediction of the movement necessary to accommodate those factors, and relay that information to the motor cortex area of your brain. The motor cortex then relays signals to your arms, feet, and hands so that you can catch the ball. This all happens in a matter of milliseconds.
Every single thing you do and think is processed in the brain through neurons and neural networks. So what are neurons and neural networks, how do they work, and how can Mendi help control them?
Neurons are the information messengers of the body. They are responsible for translating information from the outside world into signals that can be communicated across the nervous system and brain. Neurons are cells. Like any other cell in the body - from skin cells to heart cells to blood cells - they have a nucleus that holds your DNA and machinery to read your DNA and tell the cell how to function. Most cells use chemicals to communicate from one cell to another. What makes neurons particularly different from other cells is that they use electricity and chemicals to communicate from one neuron to another. Neurons use electrical impulses and chemical signals to transmit information from the world into the nervous system, between the nervous system and brain, and across different areas of the brain. The nervous system includes nerve cells from your fingers to your toes to your spinal cord to your brain that detect environmental changes and send signals rapidly in the form of electrochemical waves. This allows them to create networks of many neurons that can communicate information incredibly quickly
The human brain is estimated to contain over 100 billion neurons (roughly the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy), and each neuron is connected to thousands of other neurons.
Learning and Plasticity
The neural networks in your brain are always changing. That's why we call the brain “plastic”. When you learn something, there is a physical and chemical change to the shape and output of a neuron.
You can imagine learning as water flowing down a mountain - the more water travels down one path, the deeper that path becomes, and the more likely water will choose the same path in the future. At the same time, the harder it becomes for water to flow down a different path, and the harder it is to change.
The brain operates on a ‘use it or lose it’ principle, switching off unused neurons and connections, and strengthening used ones.
The more we activate our brains by doing or thinking the same thing, the more we preserve those networks of neurons and connections. If we practice mentally demanding tasks in the same way, we can enhance the neural networks that support our desired ways of thinking, eventually transforming them into default ways of thinking.
Imagine for a second time how water flows down a mountain. If you force water to take the path less traveled, that path becomes deeper, and the original path slowly becomes more shallow. Similarly, changing your thoughts or behaviors may seem like an enormous amount of effort at first. But with practice, the new path becomes the easier one, and the new behaviors and thoughts become normal. The fact that the brain is “plastic” allows for the potential to learn, grow, and change. This is what Mendi helps you do. Mendi makes it easier for you to forge your own desired patterns of thought.
The brain is organized into specialized areas that process specific kinds of information quickly, and then interconnect to put together a comprehensive picture of the world. For example, the temporal lobe processes sounds and simple language; the occipital lobe processes vision; the parietal lobe integrates all sensory information; and the prefrontal cortex organizes information from all parts of the brain into complex cognitive functions, like attention, planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control, and social behavior.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the area of the brain that Mendi measures.
If you think of your brain as an entire orchestra with billions of instruments playing together, the PFC is where the conductor stands. The PFC is a region of the brain that lies at the very front of your brain. Its location in the front of the brain allows it to act as a major hub for neural networks carrying information from all parts of the brain. The PFC’s role as a conductor is to decide what to pay attention to. The world is a continuous barrage of sensory inputs that surround you every minute of the day. Most of them we don’t attend to, and therefore remain subconscious.