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Stimulating the Brain
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Psychiatrists and neurologists are repeatedly frustrated by their lack of tools to research and address mental conditions. It has become clear that the root of these illnesses is not in the physical mechanism of the brain and neurons. Attempts to treat the brain itself, through psychotropic medication, have proven to be only partially effective and generally unpredictable.

In most studies that attempt to stimulate a specific part of the brain, other areas of the brain end up being stimulated as well. The side effects of many psychotropic medications can be worse than the conditions they are intended to treat.

In recent years there has been a breakthrough, thanks to a clever combination of fiberoptics and genetic engineering. This new field, known as optigenetics, uses a technology that implants a light-sensitive gene into neurons. The cells implanted with the new gene  are the only ones to react to light signals that are sent through extremely fine fiberoptic cables. These cables are implanted into deep brain structures, and messages are directed to the selected neurons.

For example, one experiment showed that stimulating 100 neurons can evoke a memory stored by 100,000 neurons. Researchers believe that continued experimentation in this area will lead to a better understanding of how memories are formed.

A full utilization of the power of light on the brain will be possible only in future years. However, the relationship between light and ideas is hardly new. The inner teachings of Torah describe a new idea as a "flash of lightening." At this stage it is known as chochmah, wisdom. Once the idea is further developed, it becomes like a flowing river, possessing breadth and depth, and is referred to as "binah." This stage is an integration  of ideas from various sources to develop and broaden the original thought.

The name "Chabad" is an acronym of Chochmah, Binah and Daat. The purpose of Chabad chassidic teachings is to expand our awareness of G-dliness so that it stimulates the brain with Divine light. That is the initial stage, chochmah. Then we must integrate the idea by expanding and meditating upon it, binah. The final stage is daat--application. This is when our new-found wisdom not only inspires us but is translated into concrete action.

Reaching this stage is the culmination of our study. It leads to the type of action that leaves a deep impact on our minds but also on the world. When our study is converted to action, this prepares ourselves and the world for the revelations of Redemption.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.

 

 


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