The audience that gathered to listen to a reading of excerpts from Soul in the Brain by author Michael R. Trimble on Friday evening tried to understand the brain and its functioning at an emotional level.
Dr. Trimble was participating in a function hosted by T.S. Srinivasan Centre, Voluntary Health Services Hospital.
Dr. Trimble, Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Neurology at the University College London, set the platform for discussions on evolution, emotions, the genesis of theism and religion and the essentially human part of the brain.
“The ideas behind the book came directly from my patients. I was struck by a rather sad fact that a number of my epilepsy patients would write poetry,” the author said, introducing his book. However, they couldn’t be published as they did not conform to the norm.
The three passages that he read out dealt with evolution of the solar system, the emotions that humans grapple with and religion. He asked why the enormity of evolution did not evoke the same response as the immediate change that we see everyday around us. What are emotions and how do we associate them with our experiences?
Dr. Trimble wondered if there were works similar to Greek tragedies in India. N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu cited a story from Tamil Sangam literature of a woman who goes to the battlefield in search of her son. It deals with various emotions when she learns that he died a hero and had not run away from the battlefield, he explained.
An intense discussion ensued with the audience exchanging notes on Kalidasa’s works and the epics, Ramayana and Mahabaratha.
The reading proceeded to understand emotions such as fear, anger, grieving and bereavement which probably led to the genesis of the notion that there was a potential of life after death. As human beings advanced, they were steadily moving towards a legal, structured language and we are paying a high price, Dr. Trimble pointed out. Understanding the brain and its functions is a complex process and continues to remain so, despite the research done so far.
The right hemisphere of the human brain is associated with music, poetry, tragedy and religion.
The seven Ls – language, laudation (prayer), lying, lacrimation, lyric, laughter and love – were what made one essentially human, differentiating them from animals, he concluded.