February 1, 2018

BW photograph of telephone poles and wires.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Wired” is another word with multiple meanings and/or connotations.

BW photograph of cables running along a brick wall.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Its primary usage is in the description of being connected.  The photographs herein illustrate that concept.  Of course, with the advent of harnessing radio waves, the concept of “wireless” came into being.  This, then, evolved into cellular communication.  Imagine if your cellphone needed a wired connection…not as convenient, eh?  That would also be so twentieth century.  Still, when the battery is drained, what do you do?  Cellphones, though, rely on wired towers and if they are compromised, say during a major storm, then that type of communication ceases.  Loosing one’s phone is another way to make that happen as well.

Basic human development is a fundamental topic in introductory courses for both Psychology and Sociology.  The human brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons.  Those billions of neurons make trillions of connections to other neurons, which allows for the electrochemical neurocommunication that is the basis for everything we do.  This is sometimes referred to as the “wiring” of the brain.  Right now, some of those neurons are popping off allowing me to hit the right key (or, on occasion, not-for that there is spell check, right?).  The same kind of processes are at play when reading this text and viewing the photographs.

The neurons in the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for the so-called executive functions (critical thinking, judgment, reasoning, the prediction of future consequences for current behaviour, etc.) are not fully wired until one matures into the early 20s.  Hence one of the reasons teenagers can be so impulsive and spontaneous-this documentary from Frontline is worth a look.  The part of the brain that would say “No, do not do that” or “Think carefully about the consequences of this decision” is not as yet fully connected.  Here is an analogy:  imagine if the wires in these photographs were somehow compromised.  What happens to their ability to transmit the signal?  The action initiated at one end of the line does not make it to the intended destination.  Full communication ceases.  Information is not available.  Problems might ensue.

BW photograph of a trashed flip phone.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

We are born with those billions of neurons, and the brain essentially wants to be as efficient as possible in organizing those cells.  The neurons that are used make connections to other neurons and subsequently form neural networks, which makes our complex behaviour possible.  Neurons that are not used wither and die-a process referred to as “pruning”.  There is a second round of neuron formation (neurogenesis) that occurs in adolescence.  Once again, though, those unused neurons will be pruned away, leaving the brain with its fundamental “adult” configuration.  All of this is much more complicated and subject to many more influences than described here-please do give the Frontline information linked above a look.  Indeed, one could spend a lifetime studying this stuff, at which point one might be referred to as a “neuroanatomist”.

BW photograph of a trashed keypad from a flip phone.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The connection between cellphones and the wiring of the brain?

It is not without reason that cellphones were introduced early in this post.  There is concern over childhood use of these devices, and that interest takes on at least a couple of forms:  one is the interaction between the cellphone’s radio waves and the human nervous system, which is the focus of this study.  The use of smartphones during childhood has others focused on the risk of compromised skill and social development.  What happens to unused neurons?  I mentioned spell check earlier.  What happens to one’s learned ability to spell if a device detects and fixes those errors for the user?  Indeed, what is the overall, long-term impact of such technology on the wiring of the developing brain, and how does that, then, translate to one’s behaviour?  Time will tell.

Oh, regarding another of the Oxford Living Dictionary’s “wired” definitions (“in a nervous, tense, or edgy state”)?  The preceding post and the reference to shinrin yoku addresses that…

Take care.


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