A Neurologist Explores What Happens When Our Brain Wiring Lets Us Taste Words

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” And there was the sound of running water, the feeling of wind on Adam’s face, the smell of flowers and the taste of apples in Eve’s mouth. Thus was the world born, and we were also born into this world, from the moment our eyes opened, dazzling with light, our nostrils filled with mother’s fragrance, the sweetness of milk on our tongues, The soothing sound of a mother’s voice and the warm, comforting feeling of skin on skin. The universe is brought into sharp reality as we begin to perceive our surroundings through our senses. And, indeed, we are reborn into this world in every waking moment, the transition between our dreams and the cold, hard world that takes place when we open our eyes, the sound mornings of the noise of vehicles or the chirping of birds pull us out of our sleep, back to Earth with a bump.

Consider any moment in your life, from the mundane chores to the special, cherished moments — the smell of a loved one’s back of the neck, or the smell of freshly brewed coffee. ; the taste of a dish that takes you back to your childhood – a disjointed, comforting memory of happy times; your favorite music suddenly plays on the radio; the familiar sight of the platform display board, signaling your morning train delay; the feeling of your child’s hand in yourself.

The snapshots of our lives form the fusion of our outer and inner worlds, uniting our memories, emotions, history, and desires and their environment. ta. And it’s on our senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch — that we rely on to perceive the reality of the world outside of our bodies. These senses are our windows to reality, the conduit between our inner and outer lives. They are how we perceive the outside world. Without them, we are cut off, isolated, apart. We cannot live anything other than a virtual life, in the realm of our own minds.

We are all familiar with the concept of incorrect or incomplete memory, the perception that our memory of events can fade or decline over time. We can remember wrongly or forget completely. We can even create memories out of nowhere. The deficiencies in our brains are clearly visible. But perhaps there is another possibility. It’s not just our memories of experiences that are susceptible to altered brain activity. Those are their own experiences.

The sight, sound, smell, taste and feel of the world around us are solid, sharp, distinct and real. We don’t doubt them; ‘Seeing is believing.’ The act of feeling something for yourself reinforces it in reality — no longer a story told or heard, experienced through past things, but a fixed representation of the real world around them As solid as the floor beneath our feet and sharp as a knife the blade cuts our fingers, bright as the sun dazzles our eyes with its light. Our sensations are our portal into the physical world that surrounds us, molds and shapes us. Through the act of feeling, doubting aside, our belief in what we see or hear is more absolute than a devout person’s faith in God. In Aristotle’s view, the five senses are the basis of all knowledge, through which we observe the ‘nature’ of the world; Through our senses, the physical world interacts with our souls. Our inner world, our mind, is like a soft wax that imprints our sensory experiences.

Yet perhaps we should be more agnostic, less trusting of our senses, questioning more about our eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose. We imagine that our sensory organs are accurate and reliable witnesses to our outside world, accurately reporting the color of the bouquet of roses we see. , or the painful sensation of pricking your finger on one of the spikes. But we imagine wrong. What we believe to be an accurate representation of the world around us is nothing more than an illusion, layer upon layer processing sensory information and interpreting that information according to our expectations. Like a blurry silhouette on a flat sheet of paper that we see as a three-dimensional object, or an itchy sensation for no apparent reason. What we consider to be the absolute truth of the world around us is a complex reconstruction, a virtual reality recreated by the workings of our minds and nervous systems. And, for the most part, we are completely unaware of these processes; We are shaken by moments when the dissonance between our perception and reality is revealed, such as staring at MC Escher’s drawing or arguing over whether the dress is white and yellow or not. black and blue.

Courtesy St Martin’s Publishing Group

Our sensory end organs — eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose — are only the first step in these cognitive pathways; what we then experience, such as sight or sound, is only loosely related to beams of light hitting our retinas or sound waves vibrating the tiny hair cells in our cochlea. inner ear. Far beyond the time when our bodies physically interact with the world, the intricacies of our nervous systems come into play, acting like supercomputers, fundamentally changing what we do. feeling, tasting, smelling, seeing or hearing. The translation of these basic inputs into a consciously meaningful experience – the pattern of light and shadow on the retina translating into a loved one’s face or the sensation of having a wet object in the hand and flaking off. ball gently rolling on the tongue. like a delicious glass of champagne — as a process of abstraction, simplification, and maximum integration, we are invisible and undetectable. The pathways, from the physical environment to our experience of it, are complex and complex, vulnerable to the nature of the system, vulnerable in the face of disease or dysfunction. power.

Taken from The man who tasted the word by Guy Leschziner. Copyright © 2022 by Guy Leschziner. Reprinted with permission of St Martin’s Publishing Group.

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