Optimization… it’s a big word! Our brains have about 100,000 billion neurons (1011) and each neuron is connected to up to 10,000 other neurons who are passing signals to others through more than 100 trillion synapses (1014 ). With this kind of computing power, It’s daunting, daring and maybe even rather pompous to even think about optimization when we are just on the cusp of understanding how the brain is interconnected (see the ‘brainbow’: the below listed image shows a new process that enables more than 100 differently mapped neurons to be illuminated). However, if there were one person to address this topic I think it could be Adam Gazzaley at the Cognitive neuroscience research lab at UCSF (gazzaleylab.ucsf.edu). He has a fascinating research program in which he combines different modalities to enhance cognitive function.
So, closer to what you ACTUALLY experience, what is there to optimize?
The brain/mind concept is an interesting one. I tend toward the idea that the computational theory of the mind was a huge impact on our thinking as it permitted us to get around the messy idea of how to separate the mind from the brain (or body, if you will). We can now understand ‘the mind’ as a sort of flow of information through the nervous system and this flow of information can be conceptually separated from the biophysical matter that makes up the nervous system, aka the brain. To understand this separation, think of a stream. The stream’s bed, rock’s, pebbles, its temperature, and other physical dimensions can be likened as roughly to the brain, perhaps even the stream bed being analogous to neural grooves (but I’m ahead of myself). The water within is the information content (i.e., the story of the person’s life) and in computational theory, the water is like the mind. The mind then is the information embodied in and processed by the nervous system or stream bed in this analogy.
The actual physical structure of our brain with it’s connections between cells, it’s electrical impulses and the different dedicated parts of the structure itself is reserved for big functions like vision, hearing, motor control and higher order thinking.
Knowing and reflecting upon these things give rise to the concept of the mind and it’s interaction with the brain.
True mental optimization means that our brain’s functionality through our mind, that is, your cognitive processes, your emotional and psychological processes as well as higher level thinking processes are all working to the best of their ability in order for you to thrive in your environment. Thriving, and thriving very well, in your environment enables you to succeed in your life.