Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 18 March 2016

Our meeting was held at our usual venue and we began with a matter arising from our last meeting. In that meeting we watched one of Dr Eagleman’s programme’s from his series on “The Brain”, in which he made it clear that the vast amount of the processing that goes on in the brain does so pre-consciously which of course means that we are almost completely unaware of it. To try to imagine in one’s mind how this complex processing might take place is very difficult but Barrie Slinger researched this and came up with, and produced a large copy of, a fascinating diagram which served as a very useful metaphor for the relationships between information input, pre-conscious processing and conscious experience. This must have taken him quite some time to produce let alone to research and I’m sure we were all grateful for his contribution.

After discussing the diagram we then went on to watch Dr Eagleman’s programme which considered the relationship between brain development and the emergence in each of us our own sense of individual identity. The programme contained some surprises such as the facts that we take longer than any other species for our brains to fully develop and that in this process we begin with twice as many brain cells as an adult and that half of these later die off. They die as they are not required for efficient functioning and those that are left have formed vast networks of interconnections as a result of both genetically programmed development and the vital influence of interactional experiences with our social and physical environments. Dr Eagleman summed it up by saying that our brain’s development is, “…the story of how life shapes our brain and how our brain shapes our life”. A particularly interesting point he made was that clinical evidence clearly shows that a mentally active old age in which one continues to take social responsibilities can demonstrably delay the onset of dementia. He concluded that phenomena such as consciousness and the concept of meaning are “emergent properties” that derive from the interactions of our neurones but are certainly no less real for that and are in many respects unique to each of us.

For those members who’ve been unable to attend this or previous meetings I’ve kept copies of the video clips and programmes we have watched so far and would be happy to put these onto discs you can watch at your leisure if you so wish.

As for the topic of our next meeting I’m afraid that we ran out of time and were unable to discuss this but I suggest that we either continue with our enquiry into the brain and discuss the notions of control and free will or discuss a topic of doubtless interest to U3A members that of the experience of loneliness in our current society. Please would you email me with you preference if possible not less than a week in advance of our meeting so that anyone who wishes to contribute can have time to prepare their material? As always of course if you have any relevant contributions from the press or other media please do bring your material along and share it with us.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible again on the 15th April.

John Moore – Group Leader.
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