Similarities Discovered Between the Brain and Universe

01/03/22 | By Gavin Lee Davies, Mr

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Universe Within

by Melvin A. Felton, Jr. /


Universe Within makes the case that the human brain is a physical model of the universe because of structural and dynamical similarities shared between the two systems based on the pictures emerging out of neuroscience and physics, respectively. The relationship between the human brain and the universe revealed by Melvin A. Felton, Jr. might be the missing principle that leads to the theory-of-everything.

In the early 2000s, I was a graduate student studying physics at Hampton University in Hampton, VA. During this time, I became interested in a potential link between modern physics and teachings from ancient Egyptian and Asian schools-of-thought regarding the fundamental nature of reality. This most certainly did not make me unique because there is a long history of scientists who have wondered if there are deep connections between the scientific discoveries of their time and ancient beliefs from a wide variety of cultures. For instance, quantum mechanics has often been compared to Buddhist and Hindu views of the world. This is because many scientists and philosophers believe that physical reality only exists in the presence of conscious observers, suggesting that consciousness plays an active causal role in the manifestation of physical reality from the unphysical quantum possibilities. This is a view that is consistent with the esoteric Buddhist and Hindu teaching that the universe was “thought” into existence by a deity, making consciousness the fundamental basis of reality.

The excitement about a possible underlying connection between ancient esoteric teachings and quantum mechanics seemed to die down midway through the first decade of this century, when quantum physicists began to increasingly interpret their findings within the context of information transfer. This way of viewing quantum processes removed the seemingly special role of the conscious observer in the outcome of quantum experiments (although today there is still considerable debate about this).I feel this ultimately took the wind out of the sails of this recent mainstream movement to show similarity between the teachings of ancient philosophies and modern physics.

Despite the ebb and flow of scientists’ interest level in a connection between modern science and ancient philosophy, I have remained highly interested in the topic over the years. I eventually realized that there are common themes in some ancient teachings that have yet to be fully explored, namely, that the universe is created mentally and that we are the microcosm of it and/or the entity that creates it. I took from this that it might be possible to gain useful insight about the nature of the universe by comparing its structural organization and dynamics to that of the brain. Contrast this with the instructions of many ancient teachings for those who wish to comprehend the nature of reality to first become familiar with their mind via altered states of consciousness, such as meditation and lucid dreaming; this is a subjective approach to comprehending the nature of reality. I, on the other hand, decided to take a much more objective approach. Therefore, inspired by my interpretation of the instructions laid out by the ancient teachings, I set out to compare what some of the leading scientific theories have to say about the universe and the brain.

With this research, I have integrated well-established theories and tantalizing theoretical possibilities produced by modern science into complete and consistent, albeit still only potential, descriptions of the universe and the brain. Using these descriptions, I compared the two systems and have uncovered stunning parallels. In my book, Universe Within: The Surprising Way the Human Brain Models the Universe (Iff Books, March 2022), I present this research and make the case that a physical model of the universe exists within the human brain. This model is not the same as the ones we are more familiar with, like the perceptual or higher-level cognitive ones that our brains create to best represent our immediate environment and situations, or the conceptual ones in the form of religions, philosophies, and sciences that we humans collectively create to best represent the universe and our place in it. Rather, this model arises due to the structural organization and dynamics of a particular subsystem in the brain, a subsystem that I assert most resembles our present day universe at a particular time during our nightly sleep cycles.


Similarities Discovered Between the Brain and Universe

During my research, I have come across reasons offered up by science why the universe and brain should be systematically compared. In other words, it is increasingly becoming apparent that, even without referencing ancient philosophical teachings, a plausible scientific argument can be made that there may be deep fundamental similarities between the universe and our brains.

To see one recently discovered similarity between the universe and brain, consider that on one hand, string theory is believed by many to be one of the most promising candidates for a “theory of everything”, that is, a theory that unifies our two crown jewels of modern physics, quantum mechanics and relativity theory. String theory suggests that all physical matter results from the vibrations of unimaginably small filaments of energy (strings) within a topologically-complex spacetime that possesses much more than the three spatial dimensions we directly perceive. Now on the other hand, in an unrelated field of research, artificial neural networks have emerged as powerful tools for processing information. This technology is only loosely modelled after the human brain because its fundamental components are artificial neurons that are simpler than real neurons, and the connectivity between them captures only some of what is observed in real brains. Nonetheless, it has recently been shown that under certain conditions, the behaviour of artificial neural networks undergoing training (learning) can approximate features of systems found in quantum mechanics, general relativity, and ultimately, string theory. That is, one can see fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and string theory within the dynamics of an artificial neural network undergoing learning, leading to the suggestion that, fundamentally, the entire universe might in fact be a neural network. Note also that there is currently a trend to advance artificial neural networks by making them more “brain-like” in terms of more realistic artificial neurons and more realistic connectivity joining them. It will be interesting to continue to track the existence of correspondences between artificial neural networks as they become more brain-like and the picture of the universe emerging out of physics.

What would be the significance if the human brain is a model of the universe?

If it turns out that the human brain and the universe have analogous structural organization and dynamics, then it means that the brain can be used as a model of the universe, and vice versa. Such a principle can provide physicists searching for a theory of everything with a model system to make observations on, opening up a whole new way to investigate and validate their theories, a luxury that many of our most recent theoretical endeavour's severely lack. For example, both the strings and tiny curled-up extra dimensions proposed by string theory have virtually no chance of ever being experimentally verified via conventional means, such as particle accelerators. Therefore, the ability to make observations on a physical system that has properties very similar to those possessed by the universe will allow string theorists to establish, via observational evidence, string theory’s relevance for describing the universe, an accomplishment that could potentially usher in a “third string theory revolution.

But note that if the human brain and the universe have analogous structural organization and dynamics, then ultimately the flow of information can occur in two directions. That is, it wouldn’t just be physicists who would benefit from being bestowed a model system upon which they could make observations; neuroscientists would also benefit because now a larger set of insights and concepts in theoretical physics can become an inspiration and a guide to their future research efforts. Currently, there are numerous collaborations between neuroscientists and physicists where the toolbox used by physicists to characterize physical systems has experienced great success when applied to the study of the brain.10 However, identifying a picture of the universe emerging out of physics as a viable model of the human brain would provide higher-level intuition and theoretical constraints for scientists who attempt to decode the ways of the brain.



Universe Within



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