Mario Puzo’s Quote

If our brains were simple, we would be too simple to understand them. – Mario Puzo

This is statement is valid because it highlights the fact that our brains are incredibly complicated. Neurologists and other biologists have studied the human brain for a very long time, but every conclusion raises new questions, and explanations to each observation might be different depending on what method the person studying uses. For example, when the human brain was first dissected, examined, and mapped out, each region of the brain is associated with a name, but no one really knew for sure what each region was responsible for. When MRI was invented, they could link stimuli with response and make an “intelligent guess” of what function each brain region is responsible for. However, after many studies, they found that completely different stimuli could cause a flare in waves emmited from the same region. This questions the reliability of the current explanations.

Also, it is our brain’s convoluted structure that allows us to think and even consider analysing the human brain. An amoeba in the pond is so simple you could break it down into its components easily, since we can differentiate between different parts very easily. The brain, on the other hand, has so many different parts to it that it is difficult for itself to understand. In order to understand it better we need a better and more sophisticated “brain”. For example, neurologists already have trouble understanding and explaining why males have uneven brain sizes (one bigger than the other), and females have even brain sizes (symmetrical).

However, it is always possible that one day the human brain could be understood. It is not impossible. Our understanding in every field of study increases all the time. It’s only a matter of time before the brain can be understood to a better degree. Although this is the case, I would like to point out that “fully understanding” the brain is subjective; the expectation of the degree of understanding for each neurologist is different. While one might say that understanding the structure, function and communication of the brain is good enough, another might be concerned about these areas as well as the relation between say brain and behaviour.

Also, how do we define simple? The only reason why the “Amoeba” is simple is because we already understand how the Amoeba works, grows, reproduces, functions etc. Also, if we look into personal experiences, in the past when we look at the name “Calculus” we might say wow that must be hard, but when we actually learn how to use it and apply it easily, we say its simple. Likewise, this whole concept of the brain is difficult to grasp, but once done, it too will be called simple.

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2 comments to Mario Puzo’s Quote

  • Jennifer

    After reading your post, I was wondering whether we really have to understand our brain. As you’ve mentioned above, totally different stimuli can cause same response. Have you ever thought that human tries to complicate and define exact function of the brain’s sections even though brain just works without definite pattern?

  • Charles Goh

    Well, you can’t really be 100% definite that humans overcomplicate things. The brain could be so complicated that we need to complicate explanations to get to a stage where we can understand them better. As for understanding the brain, it has many purposes, ranging from cures for dementia and even understanding the reasons for human behaviour. I think these are the main sources of motivation for scientists to study the brain. Other than that, perhaps it is just curiousity

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