The Jennifer Aniston Neuron

An intriguing article in National Geographic (February 2014) titled “The New Science of the Brain” has a breakthrough discovery I find mind boggling.

“Caltech and UCLA scientists use pictures of celebrities to study how the brain processes what the eyes see. In 2005 they found an individual nerve cell that fired only when subjects were shown pictures of Jennifer Aniston.

“Another neuron responded only to pictures of Halle Berry—even when she was masked as Catwoman.”

thT1034LWGThis sounds too astounding to be true.   They are not saying that we all have a neuron in our brain that responds to somebody we recognize as being famous. They say “subjects”—apparently all subjects tested—had the same neuron which responded only to a picture of this one particular woman. The Jennifer Aniston Neuron!   Did you feel yours just firing?

And then they all had another neuron that reacted only to a different particular celebrity.

This isn’t about whether Jennifer Aniston is worthy of a neuron.   She became popular for starring as Rachel Green on the Emmy-winning television sitcom “Friends” and is considered one of the 100 greatest female characters in U.S. television.

Yet, though I did not watch Friends and have never seen this actress in any of her movies, she’s been in the news enough that I recognize her with the same neuron we humans have all had in our brains apparently since Adam and Eve!

What did Adam need neurons reserved for two women he would never meet? Eve was probably better off not to know about those neurons.

So God knew Jennifer and Halle were coming down the pike from the get-go? The Bible shows He forecasted Cyrus, John the Baptist and Jesus for roles long before they walked the earth, and Jeremiah and David talked about how God knew them before birth.   It’s easy to see the significance of preknowing those spiritual giants, but still seems preposterous that our brains were wired at creation for two celebrities.

And just these two? Or did God fill our brains with neurons like the stars in the sky and the sand on the shores, enough to account for all the celebrities to come? The article noted that the amazing brain weighs only about three pounds yet contains 100,000 miles of grey matter enough to circle the earth four times!

Or is there a second more likely possibility?

The article states “When you form a memory, ‘there’s a physical change in the brain,’ says Don Arnold, of the University of Southern Colorado” (page 39).

So when a person eventually happens to run into an image of Jennifer Aniston, does he or she create the Jennifer Aniston Neuron?  That becomes the same neuron in everybody else who has seen her!   The same neuron that researchers know exactly where to look and probe in whoever’s brain?  Still too heady stuff for me to begin to fathom!

Is there a neuron for you?

What is the significance of all this?

As the article puts it so well, “Scientists are learning so much about the brain now that it’s easy to forget that for much of history we had no idea at all how it worked or even what it was” (p. 38).

Yet from the beginning, God has revealed in His Bible that what really counts is not our physical brains but the Holy Spirit of God uniting with our Spirit in Man. What???? A Spirit in Man? Most people mistakenly believe we have an immortal spirit.

We are to walk after the spirit, not the flesh (Romans 8:1). We need to understand our Spirit in Man and yielding to the Holy Spirit.

Don’t miss my soon post “What Are You That God Is Mindful of You?”

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