Emotional Intelligence

What's the relationship between the brain and the soul?
Answered by Rudy Tanzi PhD
  • Rudy Tanzi PhD

    Rudy Tanzi PhD

  1. Rudy Tanzi PhD Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital


    Deepak Chopra and I are writing a book called Superbrain. It's Deepak's title. Deepak and I spoke at the same TEDMED last year, and afterwards we met for the first time. We started talking about the brain, and we realized that me coming from the neuroscience side, thinking about cognition and nerve cells and synapses, and Deepak coming from the consciousness side, in a series of e-mails after we met we realized that we agree on just about everything, but I think about it in terms of neurophysiology and neuronal processes and how synapses form, and Deepak is thinking of it in a metaphysical way in terms of consciousness, using Vedantic literature.

    But remember, Deepak's an M.D., so he knows the science side so he can appreciate what I'm saying, and I've always had an intense interest in metaphysics and the things Deepak talks about. I've read Deepak's books before I met him. So, it was just a very nice marriage there, and we said, "Let's write a book about the brain and let's talk about all the things that people don't know about the brain that makes the brain so amazing."

    So, one part of the book is to say, "I bet you didn't know," to the average person, "that nerve cells actually divide. You're taught that you're born with a certain number of nerve cells, you lose them, and you don't get them back. Well, guess what, that's wrong. Now we know that new nerve cells are made exactly in the region of the brain where Alzheimer's hits. We also know from research in my lab and other labs that if you induce nerve cells to divide in the short-term memory part of the brain, you can improve the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in animal models." So, things like this. A lot of people don't know about neuroplasticity, the idea that when you have damage to the brain, a stroke or brain trauma, that nerve cells around the damaged ones regenerate. They sprout new axons and dendrites. They try to regain the connections that were lost by the neurons that died. They try to maintain the neuro-network in some amazingly elegant way.

    So, you're not just left out to dry after you have an injury. If you try to learn, seek novelties, stimulate yourself intellectually, force yourself to make new synapses, you can heal yourself. Now, of course, it depends on how traumatic the injury is. So, we want to teach people that the brain's an amazing thing. The second point to the book is now that you know how great your brain is and how amazing it is and all these things you might not have known, guess what -- you are not your brain. You may think you're your brain. You're not your brain just as much as you're not your stomach. When you're hungry, you feel hunger in your stomach and you say, "I need to eat."

    You don't identify with your stomach. Your stomach gave you a feeling that you needed to have so that you would eat food so that you can survive and function. Emotions, intellect, serve the same purpose from the brain. Your emotions are serving you for survival and your intellect is serving you. It's your partner, your greatest ally, a very powerful tool. It's not who you are. The reason why that's very empowering is because if you are having a tough time in life mired in depression or mired in some negative mood, we're hoping that people read this and say, "I have this amazing partner in my head, this amazing organ, even cooler than my stomach, and it's mine to use."

    So, in the book one of the first lines that I wrote -- and we'll see if it stays in it -- is "Say out loud: 'my brain.' My brain. Who said that? Who said 'my brain'? That's who you are. The person who said 'my brain,' that's who you are. You used your brain to say 'my brain,' but the fact you can say 'my brain' and be self-aware says that's the real you." Now, who the real you is, this is where Deepak comes in, because Deepak will talk about the soul and about consciousness and about the universe's consciousness and the metaphysics. So, Deepak will bring in who's the real you. I will bring in the real you as an incredible partner to survive on this earth and thrive, and it's your brain.

    When you feel down, when you feel emotionally down, acknowledge it, OK? It's for a reason. Emotions serve a purpose. Don't be Mr. Spock. Don't be the Star Trek generation, where emotion is useless, you know, you just use logic. No, be balanced. When emotions hit, pay attention, but don't identify with them. When intellectual thoughts come, internal dialogue hits, use it; don't be it. When intuitions come that are born out of your intellect and your instinct, pay attention to them. They're all serving you from your partner, the brain, but it's not who you really are. So those are the two facets of the book.

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