For years, science has theorized that the human brain ran solely on reactions to stimulus from it’s exterior environment, but in recent years scientists have been discovering that it instead runs a series of predictive abilities. Now, researchers have located what part of the brain is connected to this ability.
Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett at Northeastern University, and W. Kyle Simmons of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have published a paper in Nature, describing their findings that the brain’s predictive abilities arise in the organ’s limbic tissue, of which is also connected to our emotions. They have demonstrated that the limbic center is sending out it’s signals to the rest of the brain to be processed, rather than receiving signals sent to it from outside perception, as was previously believed.
What this means is that what our beliefs are what shape our perceptions, and not the other way around, as the old theory of a reactive brain would assume. The brain perceives a particular situation, but instead of simply reacting to that stimulus, it tries to predict how to act.
“The unique contribution of our paper is to show that limbic tissue, because of its structure and the way the neurons are organized, is predicting,” Barrett says. “It is directing the predictions to everywhere else in the cortex, and that makes it very powerful.
“What your brain is trying to do is guess what the sensation means and what’s causing the sensations so it can figure out what to do about them. Your brain is trying to put together thoughts, feelings, and perceptions so they arrive as needed, not a second afterwards,” Barrett elaborates.