Most of the things our brain does we have no clue how it does it. Thought, Memory storage and recall, dreaming, spatial awareness, timekeeping, emotions, pain and the big ONE- qualia. We have no clue how any of these things work and we have studied the brain profusely; scanned it and we got almost zilch. Why is this so? I get the brain is complicated and I agree that consciousness will probably never be explained (possibly ever) but much like the recent papers that a lot of psychology studies are inaccurate; does neuroscience have to be completely re-hauled and restructured if we want to learn the truth?


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    $\begingroup$ "We have no clue how any of these things work" is a bit of an exaggeration: when you go to the details, we do not understand exactly how planes fly, but we do understand paper planes and we have a general idea of the basic principles which allows us to eliminate a lot of options which do not fly. Likewise, we do not know exactly how mammals' brains work, but we do understand slug's brains and are able to build simple neural networks, and we have a general idea of the basic principles which allows us to eliminate a lot of options which do not "think". $\endgroup$
    – J..y B..y
    Jul 27, 2022 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to psych.SE. Please provide a credible source to back up the claims made here, otherwise, this is just opinion-based, which makes it off-topic for this forum. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jul 27, 2022 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ The citation provided not only does not back up the claims made in the question, it also answers the actual question asked. This question is clearly soliciting opinion-based answers here. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jul 28, 2022 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly because most people aren’t that interested in the seemingly complicated causal relationship and importance between the brain and our cognitions and emotions, compared to many other corners and pursuits of life. Just note the extremely low number of participants and viewers of this exchange forum compared to many others. $\endgroup$
    – cinch
    Nov 6, 2022 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ The difficulty in performing quantitative measurement of what are qualitative experiences has historically played a part. fMRIs work fine in a lab setting, but try carrying one around in everyday-life. $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2022 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


"does neuroscience have to be completely re-hauled and restructured (...)?"

I would leave aside the (over) exaggeration that "We have no clue how any of these things work", and would replace the way too ambitious (and ill defined) objective of "if we want to learn the truth" by a more reasonable one such as "in order to achieve critically higher levels of understanding".

What has been pointed out by researchers in "complex systems" (which range from ecology to psychology) in the last decades is that the "divide and conquer" approach to science (e.g. separate the study of brains between neurology and psychology) might have been extremely useful to human societies in understanding many aspects of the universe, but might have inherent limitations for studying and understanding properties emerging from large complex systems (e.g. understanding how a transistor works is at a different level from understanding how a computer works), for which a more "holistic", an understanding at a higher level, might be required.

Such limitations might not just be inherent to the approach, but to the capacities of the human brains or human individuals in general: whether we reached such limits or not already, it is clear that there are limits to how much scope and depth a human individual can achieve about any specific topic in a human lifespan. Such argument has been used by science fiction authors to predict that future breakthrough in complex systems (including topics such as "understanding how the brain works") will be achieved by (radically) augmented humans (considering that we are already augmented) and/or artificial intelligence. (I think that this is one of the central argument of trans-humanism, but I am not an expert on the topic.)

Note also the amusing recursive component of the issue of "understanding the brain": if you have to "extend" the brain in order to understand it, your target is moving, and you might have to extend further your "old brain" in order to understand the "new brain". The issue is way more complicated and not as paradoxical as it seems, but amusing (and with a little bit of truth in it) nevertheless.

In short,

  • I am convinced that neuroscience can still make serious progresses in the understanding of "how brains work" with the current technology and knowledge; but
  • I have no doubts that some (far in the future) future breakthroughs will require a re-haul, a restructure, and even a breakthrough in the augmentation of humans itself. Whether such event will come sooner or later I cannot fathom.

Hope it helps!


I would just point out that after reading a piece about the future of neuroscience over next 50 years, what became apparent was that there where still a lot of various levels of study from the cellular level on up to how they grow and develop and become larger networks and then further the brain. Like they are still trying to figure out and tease apart the entire bottom up, and the. Top down model. They know a lot. One limiting factor though too is to actually build an accurate model of the brain 🧠 it would require an absolute insane amount of computing power. Like nothing short of a powerful quantum computer could do this. Even then it might be a lot, especially if you add the rest of the body. Not being able to create these models does keep them from doing a sort of “guess and check” type of experimentation.That would allow us to learn at a faster rate. Also even if we could make the models, they still are trying to connect the absolute bottom level to the top in terms of development and functional integration. The article I read did none the less describe a rather exciting future in neuroscience as the field is able to close certain gaps in understanding, one after another, so progress is coming. But know this, the US invests 2/3rds the amount of money in basic research that China does. If we want to stay strong we need to invest in this type of research which has been proven in past to generate roughly $10 for every $1 invested in long run. It’s just inherently the messy type of research that you can’t require a ROI right away. Some fields take time to develop, others not as much. But the more we inch forward to learning and growing where ever it takes us, the more economic prosperity answer strength we can project as a country going forward. Like to be fair, something with a ROI of 10:1, this is by definition worth it even as deficit spending.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you give the link to the piece you read? $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Jul 28, 2022 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ It was a couple months ago, sorry. Kinda forget what it was called. It was from some neuroscience group. I did Litterally just kinda search “the future of neuroscience” or something like that. That’s how I found it. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Aug 1, 2022 at 2:46
  • $\begingroup$ I get this one from a quick search. Is that it? The Next 50 Years of Neuroscience | Journal of Neuroscience $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Aug 1, 2022 at 6:51

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