How the brain protects the body from death

How the brain protects the body from death

Death is inevitable and a difficult event for many people to deal with, but our brains think it only happens to others. That's because constantly thinking that our lives will end will eventually lead us into an existential crisis. So say the researchers at the University of Bar Ilam in Israel and the Center for Research and Neuroscience in Lyon.

Scientists have found that as soon as we become aware of our existence and the fact that life eventually ends, our brains find a way to shield this information. One study found that the human mind frames death as something that only happens to others.

"Our brain doesn't accept that death is related to us," Yair Dor-Ziderman, one of the study's authors, tells The Guardian . "We have this primordial mechanism that means that when the brain gets information that binds to death, something tells us it's unreliable, so we shouldn't believe it."

Avoiding thoughts about death can be crucial to living the present. This protection can begin early in life as our mind develops and we become aware that death comes for all. Lately, humans have spent a lot of time thinking about disasters such as wars and severe climate change . However, our brains prevent this from being even worse.

To investigate how the brain deals with the idea of ​​death, Dor-Ziderman and his colleagues developed a test that involves sending surprise signals to the brain. They asked volunteers to watch faces flashing on the screen while their brain activity was monitored.

The face of the person himself and a stranger appeared several times, followed by a different face. This last image caused a sign of astonishment because it was a different ending than the brain expected. In half the time, these images were related to death, with words like "funeral" and "burial." Scientists found that when volunteers' faces appeared near deadly words, the brain turned off its prediction system. That is, he refused to connect with death, and did not generate surprise reactions.

According to Avi Goldstein, one of the authors of the research, "this suggests that we shield ourselves from existential threats, or consciously think about our death, turning off predictions about ourselves, or categorizing this information to others."

We will all die. Our rational brain understands this, but it still finds a way to help protect us from this harsh reality.

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