The minds of infants are a mystery, but new brain research suggests that their inner lives may resemble a dream or a 1) psychedelic trip.
2) What is it like to be a baby? Very young children can’t tell us what their experiences are like, and none of us can remember the beginnings of our lives. So it would seem that we have no way of understanding baby 3) consciousness, or even of knowing if babies are conscious at all.
But some fascinating new 4) neuroscience research is changing that. It turns out that when adults dream or have psychedelic experiences, their brains are functioning more like children’s brains. It appears that the experience of babies and young children is more like dreaming or tripping than like our usual 5) grown-up consciousness.
As we get older, the brain’s 6) synapses—the connections between neurons—start to change. The young brain is very 7) “plastic,” as neuroscientists say: Between birth and about age 5, the brain quickly and easily makes new connections. A 8) preschooler’s brain has many more synapses than an adult brain. Then comes a kind of 9) tipping point. Some connections, especially the ones that are used a lot, become longer, stronger and more efficient. But many other connections disappear—they are 10) “pruned.”
What’s more, different areas of the brain are active in children and adults. Parts of the back of the brain 11) are responsible for things like 12) visual processing and perception. These areas mature quite early and are active even in infancy. By contrast, areas at the very front of the brain, in the 13) prefrontal cortex, aren’t completely mature until after 14) adolescence. The prefrontal cortex is the 15) executive office of the brain, responsible for focus, control and long-term planning.
Like most adults, I spend most of my waking hours thinking about 16) getting things done. Scientists have discovered that when we experience the world in this way, the brain sends out signals along the established, stable, efficient networks that we develop as adults. The prefrontal areas are especially active and have a strong influence on the rest of the brain. In short, when we are thinking like grown-ups, our brains look very grown-up too.
But recently, neuroscientists have started to explore other states of consciousness. In research published in the journal Nature in 2017, Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues looked at what happens when we dream. They 17) measured brain activity as people slept, waking them up at regular intervals to ask whether they had been dreaming. Then the scientists looked at what the brain had been doing just before the sleepers woke up. When people reported dreaming, parts of the back of the brain were much more active—much like the brain areas that are active in babies. The prefrontal area, on the other hand, shuts down during sleep.
A number of recent studies also explore the brain activity that 18) accompanies psychedelic experiences. A study published last month in the journal Cell by David Olson of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues looked at how 19) mind-altering chemicals affect synapses in rats. They found that a wide range of psychedelic chemicals made the brain more plastic, leading brain cells to grow more connections. It’s as if the cells went back to their 20) malleable, 21) infantile state.
In other words, the brains of dreamers and trippers looked more like those of babies and young children than those of focused, hard-working adults. In a way, this makes sense. When you have a dream or a psychedelic experience, it’s very hard to focus your attention or control your thoughts—which is why reporting these experiences is notoriously difficult. At the same time, when you have a vivid nightmare or a mind-expanding experience, you certainly feel more conscious than you are in boring, everyday life.
In the same way, an infant’s consciousness may be less focused and controlled than an adult’s but more vivid and immediate, combining perception, memory and imagination. Being a baby may be both stranger and more intense than we think.
By: Alison Gopnik
Source: The Wall Street Journal
<Words & Expressions>< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
1) psychedelic: 환각을 일으키는 (본문에서 mind altering의 의미임을 친절하게 보여주고 있네요)
2) what is it like to be a baby: 아기가 된다는 것은 어떤 것일까?
3) consciousness: 의식, 지각 cf) conscious: 의식있는, 지각있는
4) neuroscience: 신경과학 cf) neuroscientist: 신경과학자
5) grown-up consciousness: 성숙한 의식.
(예문) The “parent” state is the more grown-up consciousness associated with social roles, responsibilities, and beliefs systems. 부모라는 상태는 사회적인 역할, 책임, 신념체계와 연관된 성숙한 의식이다.
6) synapse: 신경접합부(시냅스)
7) plastic: (형용사로 쓰일경우) 형태를 바꾸기 쉬운 (예문) Clay and wax are plastic substances. 점토와 왁스는 변형이 잘 되는 물질이다.
8) preschooler: 유치원생
9) tipping point: 작은 변화들이 모여 커다란 질적변화를 일으키는 순간
10) prune: 축소하다. 가지치기 하다. (예문) To prune roses with a pruning knife. 전지용 칼로 장미의 가지치기를 하다.
11) be responsible for~: ~에 대해 책임이 있다
12) visual processing: 시각적 처리
13) prefrontal cortex: 전두엽 피질
14) adolescence: 청소년기
15) executive office: 임원 사무실 (본문에서는 뇌의 최고 통제기관이라는 의미로 쓰임)
16) getting things done: (어떠한 일을) 완수하다
17) measure the brain activity: 뇌의 활동을 측정하다
18) accompany: ~에 수반하는
19) mind altering chemical: 환각을 일으키는(=psychedelic) 화학물질
20) malleable: 영향을 잘 받는, 잘 변화는 (=easily influenced, changed, and trained)
21) infantile: 어린애 같은, 유치한