Heavenly Minded and Earthly Good

Spiritual transformation has a lot to do with the brain. /

The brain is commonly said to contain around 100 billion neurons (though some recent research suggests it may be only 84 billion). Each neuron—or nerve cell—is connected to a thousand of its fellow neurons. So this gives the brain about 84–100 trillion connections between neurons. If neurons were the size of dollar bills, 100 trillion of them sewn together would make a carpet covering Texas and California combined. That’s a lot of neurons in a relatively small space.

Now consider this: Each of the trillions of connections between neurons can have various states. Computers have binary signals, ones and zeroes, on and off, as their basic signaling device. Neural connections may have ten or more possible states at just one of the 84–100 trillion junctures. This is why the brain is considered by many to be the most complex thing in existence. Fully understanding how the brain processes vision—with some neurons dedicated to processing movement, others to color, others to shapes, others to faces—is a task well beyond current science. But what we do know gives us a window into how God may use the brain to transform us.

How the Brain Works

Neurons communicate through a mix of electrical and chemical signals. Those signals can change, increase and decrease in strength, or develop from scratch. One neuron receives signals from another through its dendrites, which have a branch-like structure. They send an electrical impulse up their branches into the body of the neuron and then out through one or more of their many axons, which also look like branches. At the tip of the axon is the synapse, a gap between two nerve cells. Here the electrical signal in the cell changes to a chemical ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 8 / October 30, 2014
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. The Gospel in Your Pocket

    In some ways the best that is yet to come already is. /

  3. Hurrahing in Harvest

    How autumn can help us ‘glean our Savior.’ /

  4. Fall’s Barbarous Beauty

    From summer to school to the Savior via Gerard Manely Hopkins. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff

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