According to neuroscientist David Eagleman, our consciousness is on a time delay. The millisecond lag is when the brain processes all sensory input and offers the best story of what exactly is going down (AKA reality). So imagine being on a flight when the cabins roof rips off, exposing the starry sky. Not only would the plane smell of fresh pee, but also, Eagleman believes, every passenger would say the terrifying descent took much longer than it actually did. He holds that under duress, the brains amygdala goes into overdrive, recording every single detail and making near-death experiences seem slowed-down.
As a boy, Eagleman became interested in the discrepancies among time, consciousness, and reality when he fell off a roof and the sudden fall felt more like floating. His eventual work in neuroscience uncovered more mysterious brain behavior, which he catalogs in his recent book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. The conscious you the I that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning is the smallest bit of whats transpiring in our brain, he writes. His revelations hint that the final frontier is not outer space, but whats knocking around inside our own heads. Eagleman talks Incognito at Books & Books this Wednesday.
Wed., June 1, 8 p.m., 2011