Segments in this Video

Unconscious Brain (01:45)


Without present awareness, the unconscious area of the brain governs over nearly all actions and decisions.

Who's In Control? (02:56)

When the conscious human brain wakes up in the morning, it becomes aware of itself again. The decisions that each human makes seem to stem from the conscious mind, but in reality, it is more complicated than that. The conscious brain takes up just a small amount of activity in the brain, according to Dr. David Eagleman.

Unconscious Hard at Work (03:50)

The majority of the brain works to control the body with automatic, unconscious actions. As Eagleman drinks a cup of coffee, he explains that the brain is hard at work, estimating the spatial position of the cup, anticipating the temperature, and understanding weight, all through information transmitted through nerves in his arm.

Learning to Walk Again (03:49)

Much of the ability to move the body gracefully comes from the cerebellum, where neurons with upwards of 200,000 connections apiece work together as the body unconsciously measures trillions and trillions of calculations. Ian Waterman experienced nerve damage at the age of 19 that forever limited his ability to move.

Practice Effect (04:00)

Austin Neighbor is a champion cup stacker. Eagleman and Neighbor are hooked up to electroencephalogram measuring devices to detect brain activity during a cup stacking competition.

Autopilot (03:46)

Neighbor is a champion cup stacker because his years of practicing have hardwired the skill into his brain. This process is localized in the brain. The brain is hardwired to do many things learned from childhood, like walking or riding a bike.

Flow State (04:18)

Since the age of 12, Dean Potter has given his life to the art and sport of climbing. Athletes and meditation experts, have described a state where rational thought falls away, and the unconscious is entered. This means that neural circuits are running without the conscious mind interfering.

Sigmund Freud (03:58)

Freud pioneered a mode of thinking about the brain and the mind known as psychoanalysis. He utilized a method of listening to people talk without eye contact to lure them into revealing things about themselves. This allowed him to study the unconscious.

Psychological Experiments (03:22)

One experiment in the mid-1960s discovered that men unconsciously rated photos of women with dilated pupils to be more attractive than photos of the same women without dilated pupils, suggesting that the unconscious mind picks up on biological cues indicating sexual arousal and steers men towards them.

Why Consciousness? (03:40)

Consciousness is called into play when anything unexpected is discerned. The brain then relies on consciousness to assess whether the unknown thing is a threat or an opportunity, both internally and externally.

Regulator (02:59)

The brain is comprised of thousands of specialized sections working like departments on varying tasks. The consciousness is the regulator of all these sections, allowing long term planning to supersede immediate conflicts. Consciousness is like taking a step back and viewing all of the departments as one unified whole, and being able to make grand decisions that account for the entirety of the brain, and the organism it is attached to.

Without Consciousness (05:29)

If consciousness does not come on, unusual and bizarre results can occur. Twenty-three year old Ken Parks drove 24 km to his in-laws house where he strangled and stabbed in them before going to the police station in a state of bewilderment. He was sentenced to prison, and then later acquitted of all charges after sleep specialists determined a history of sleep disorder in his family.

Brain Makeup (02:07)

We know that unconscious brains control behavior, but to understand why human brains differ from one another requires a deeper look into the construction of the brain. The brain's construction begins with genes. For instance, males have a Y chromosome and are much more likely to commit violent crime than women.

Molding (02:14)

Genetics are the basis for the construction of the brain, but the interaction of the brain with outside circumstances from family to neighbors to culture and society at large also has a profound effect on how the brain develops. The human brain will mold itself to work with its surroundings, no matter the time or place.

Power of Choice (03:32)

Scientists are assessing the possibility or lack thereof of free will via transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a method of inducing currents in specific areas of the brain that can generate involuntary movement in test subjects. The results are still inconclusive.

Unimaginable Complexity (04:36)

If free will does not exist, are all events predictable and therefore pointless? Via a ping pong ball demonstration, Eagleman shows that the possibilities for the human brain, its interactions with other brains, and the ongoing development it has work together to create so many possibilities that predictability is purely impossible.

Credits: Who Is In Control? Part 3: The Brain with David Eagleman (01:58)

Credits: Who Is In Control? Part 3: The Brain with David Eagleman

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Who Is In Control? Part 3: The Brain with David Eagleman

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This episode of The Brain with David Eagleman series explores the great deception that greets us each morning when we awake: it feels as though we are in conscious control of our lives but the truth is that we are not. Instead almost every action, every decision, every belief that we hold is driven by parts of the brain that we have no access to. To demonstrate why so many of our actions are governed by the unconscious, Dr. Eagleman competes with a 10 year old world champion in the sport of cup stacking. Wearing EEG caps to record their brain activity as they stack cups reveals that although the young world champion is performing at much greater speed and precision, his brain is almost at rest. Dr. Eagleman’s brain, on the other hand, is working overtime. Deploying consciousness is expensive, compared to running unconscious neural circuits that have been burnt in over many hours of practice. When a skill sinks below the level of conscious control this allows for much greater speed and efficiency. This kind of "automatization" of skills allows the brain to run multiple programs, to multi-task, and it allows the conscious mind to run free. The reach of the unconscious in our lives extends beyond what we physically do to how we behave. Dr. Eagleman reveals that everything from whom we find attractive to how we’ll describe the relationship we have with our mother can be influenced by factors that we have no conscious control over. Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL114670

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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