Saturday, April 28, 2012

Limitless.. suffocation

It's true, he's dreamy... even if his character
in this movie is a huge douchebag who
obtains his mental prowess via scientifially
questionable means.
I watched Limitless tonight.  That's that Bradley Cooper movie where Bradley Cooper starts taking a pill that gives him phenomenal cosmic brain powers.  The conceit of the movie is that the pill works by giving access to the 60% of his brain that normally he wouldn't be able to "access."  This is an old trope-- that humans can only "access" some small percentage of our brains.  In some sense this is true-- we can't consciously think many parts of our brains in to performing their functions more or less, better or worse.  But, let me assure you (lest you are sad that you have to carry all that useless brain around with you), our lack of control over our lower brain is fairly critical to keeping us alive.  Once Bradley popped that pill and we were treated to some dramatic renderings of neurons and structural MRIs, I thought "why would anyone WANT to access the other 60% of their brain" (not that "60" is a scientifically derived number, that's just what they use in the film.)

Look, if all of a sudden you started using your midbrain to learn Cantonese and game the stock market (as Bradley Cooper does in the movie), you wouldn't have much time to enjoy your ill gotten gains because it would be a race between suffocation, heart failure, and falling over and cracking open your skull on the nearest inconveniently placed hard object to determine what would kill you first (and probably even more, hard to foresee, miserable, more or less instantaneous ways to die).  You need your lower, "inaccessible" brain parts to keep you breathing, keep your heart pumping, keep your muscles working!  It's not like "60%" of your brain is just sitting idle while your prefrontal cortex mans the ship.

Respect the midbrain, people!

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