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I was combing through some old stuff and ran into my old neuroanatomy notebook back from when I was in PT school. Our professor made us write reflections at the conclusion of each of our course to ponder what we learned. I'm grateful he did. Still a wide-eyed student, this is what I wrote:

“Considering the journey of learning neuroanatomy, the Latin philosophical proposition by René Descartes translated, “I think, therefore I am,” came to mind. So much is mysterious in the inner workings of our nervous system. Regretfully, I felt as if we were given a lake of resources and material for neuroanatomy, but I was only able to wet my feet in some of the concepts. In conjunction with all of our other classes, it definitely was a balancing act.

While the anatomy itself contains enough flavor to satiate the most devoted neuroanatomist, a deeper unavoidable question of philosophy and anthropology raises itself within the folds of the cortex and structures deep to it. What is man? What is consciousness? While the insular cortex may construct an integrated experience of life for our minds, and our prefrontal cortex is the hub of our higher level processing, where exactly is the presence of our “mind”? What drives our decisions and our thoughts? This raises another interesting question. If our neurons are merely cells that either transmit an electrical impulse (or not) in a sort of binary fashion, then how does their, albeit, complex assortment create the individual personhood of each man or woman?

Anatomy and psychology cannot answer the most perplexing enigmas our existence presents. According to [some] psychologists, we are the product of our genetics and our environment, but the nature of our brains deserves more than that I believe. Our genetics and our intrinsic responses to our environment driven by desire for reward and avoidance of pain do not explain the profound neuroplasticity with which our brains operate on a daily basis. Our free will and our ability to break generational tendencies and make choices to live in different ways does not appear to merely be the product of binary signals.

Nor can evolutionary thought explain the unique moral consciousness on which humanity operates. Countless stories of people behaving in ways that are utterly inconsistent with the simple purpose of surviving and passing on their genes exist, and in a wide spectrum, from self-sacrificial behavior to genocide and homosexuality.

The question remains: is there something more behind the white and gray matter in our skulls? Could the spark of life and the ability to question our own existence necessitate some kind of transcendent oversight on the inner workings of our minds? Faith provides the only real tangible answer, in my mind, as ironic as that sounds. A car cannot be smarter than the engineer who made it. Likewise, I think it makes sense that we cannot understand our own minds unless we stop suppressing knowledge of the one who made it.”

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