• Question: We know that the brain controls the body, but what controls the brain?

    Asked by SOPHIA M to Aaron, Abbey, Keith, Natalie, Pete on 16 Nov 2015.
    • Photo: Aaron Boardley

      Aaron Boardley answered on 16 Nov 2015:

      At a very basic level, the brain is a big lump of living tissue that is firing electric signals around based on the chemical reactions inside it. Those chemical and electrical reactions obey all the usual laws of science – like the reactions in your test tube in lessons.

      So, you could equally ask ‘what controls those reactions in a test tube?’.

      They just happen a certain way, according to things we call ‘laws’, but at every stage you can ask ‘why’ a law is a certain way, and then dig deeper, and find an explanation that depends on other laws. Why does the universe have these laws? That’s a big philosophical question!

    • Photo: Natalie Garrett

      Natalie Garrett answered on 20 Nov 2015:

      The brain is not like a computer sitting in an isolated room that just sends signals out to control the machinery of the body, although it’s easy to think of it that way. In actual fact, the brain is always receiving signals from the body and from the environment outside the body, and these change its behaviour. For instance, if the nerves in your skin send signals to the brain that signify that the body’s too cold, this will trigger a series of chemical and electro-physical reactions that end up with the brain sending signals to your muscles so you shiver and hence heat up.

      All the organs in your body have developed to respond to subtle chemical and neurological stimuli, and they have developed this together, not independently. So it’s not really possible to say that any one organ is completely controlled by another organ (although the brain is responsible for organising and coordinating most of our body’s functions): they’re actually all inter-connected.