Behold the Most Complicated Object in the Known Universe

Dr. Michio Kaku tackles the most fascinating and complex object in the known universe: the human brain. For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed through high-tech brain scans devised by physicists. In The Future of the Mind, Kaku looks at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics.  

Interview Highlights

Kaku said that we’ve learned more about the human brain in last 10 to 15 years than in all of human history combined. He talked about the mission of the BRAIN initiative, launched by President Obama last year. “We want to do is to have a map, a complete map of the brain, all the way down to the neural level. Then we’ll see whether or not we can duplicate schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and OCD,” Kaku said. “When the brain malfunctions, we think part of it is because of the it’s wiring that’s been done incorrectly, but there’s no map, there’s no map of the brain.”  

Mapping the brain is a larger, more complex project that mapping the human genome was. There are roughly 23 thousand genes in the human genome. But, Kaku said, “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”

Other promising new technologies include memory-stimulation devices. “We’re thinking of creating what is called a brain pacemaker, like your heart pacemaker, for Alzheimer’s patients.” He explained how it might work: “If an Alzheimer’s patient forgets their keys, for where they’re located, forgets who they are, they just hit the pacemaker, or the pacemaker automatically clicks on, and they remember who they are, they remember where to go home.”

Another technology is a device called the “god helmet,” which shoots electromagnetic radiation into the brain and indices religious behavior. “It turns out that the left temporal lobe, if there’s a lesion there, will create hyper-religiosity. People become super-religious. They see demons and spirits everywhere. We think Joan of Arc may have had it.” You can actually induce this kind of behavior in someone when they wear the helmet (the effects are temporary).

There are also some new drugs on the horizon that can help people forget things. “This has military implications because of all the wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan,” and those who have PTSD, he said. Of course, there’s a danger in drugs like this. “ What happens when you put a false memory in someone?”