After reading a blog post of mine, I was recently contacted by a woman, Allison Morris, who has made a simple graphic (at onlinecollegecourses) of the brain to help people understand the supposed functions of each area. While I applaud this lively experience I am reminded by Joseph LeDoux, in The Synaptic Self, that the brain doesn’t only have discreet areas of operation, it is in the synapses that information is recorded and stored and then transferred to other areas of the brain and to the genes themselves. Here is a statement by him:
Synapses are the spaces between brain cells. But more importantly, they are the channels of communication between cells that make possible all brain functions, including perception, memory, emotion and thinking.
It’s practically a truism to say the synapses underlie personality since synapses underlie everything the brain does. More important yet: synapses are the sites of storage of information, including information that is encoded by our genes and also by our experiences — our memories.
When it comes to personality, genes and experience are just two ways of doing the same thing — wiring synapses. That’s why I say, To the extent that we are a product of our genes and experiences, we are our synapses.
This doesn’t mean that the essence of who you are is encoded at a particular synapse. It means that your self is a very complex pattern of synaptic connectivity in your brain.
In thinking about how emotion, writing and the brain come together, this man has pushed my understanding along quite a ways. If this area interests you, I highly recommend his other book, The Emotional Brain too.