The brain is that part of the CNS ( central nervous system) contained within the cranium comprising of the forebrain ( prosencephalon), the midbrain ( mesencephalon) and the hindbrain ( rhombencephalon). It is made up of soft nervous tissues functioning as the coordinating centre for sensation, intellectual and nervous activity.
Surprisingly, the brain reacts in predictable ways in unpredictable situations like in the present pandemic that we are faced with. In my present article I will refer to the pandemic as an “emergency” situation.
The brain tries to offset some of the frustration from big problems by creating additional solvable ones. A way to distract us from a colossal problem is to create other solvable ones for e.g. the toilet paper shortage in the foreign countries due to the ongoing COVID 19. Equivalently in our country there is a large scarcity of sanitary napkins as some women are hoarding them in more than required quantities. Logically food, shelter and medications are the most necessary needs. When we create a shortage of dispensable items such as toilet and sanitary tissues, finding solutions to this manageable problem makes us feel a sense of victory and control.The brain also assumes that simple solutions to complex problems are ineffective. The CDC has given simple recommendations to stop the spread of the virus for e.g. by frequent washing of hands. But the brain assumes that complex problems require complicated solutions to be solved.
The brain operates under the law of least effort i.e. we might deny what is going on, we might reduce its significance or we might search for what else can be done. When our daily, monthly, yearly routines are suspended or severely mutated we are kicked off from our comfort zone. This is when the second brain system is put to work when logic, deliberate and effort-ful thinking is required. Our brain does not repel much if the second system has to function for a few hours in a day. But in an emergency situation it has to work overtime, this might explain why on the days after the ” emergency” announcement you did not accomplish much but still felt fatigued at the end of the day.
We tend to overeat in emergency situations as our unconscious has the emergency memo. Presently as well we are eating more than usual and are spending time and effort on uploading recipes and prepared food items in the social media. The unconscious is unsure whether there will be a next meal, what if this leads to a famine? What if all the food vanishes? The brain will make you overeat to save the fat for any upcoming emergency and to increase your survival should food disappear.Why cant we use past success examples to reduce anxiety? Stress hormones are released in abundance in emergency situations that negatively affect memory systems such as the hippocampus. Thus we experience forgetfulness and cannot readily access encouraging past examples.
Higher decision makers such as the frontal cortex is connected to lower emotional parts i.e. the amygdala.Usually the frontal cortex put the brakes on when the emotional parts get overwhelmed. In emergencies the amygdala takes the driver’s seat and ejects many false positives, thus rumors, fake news and anomalous stories gain credibility. Predictable situations give us a false sense of control. The current global situation is erecting a new reality that our brains find undesirable. Many things seem unknown today and tomorrow is stained with uncertainty. The frontal lobe is struggling to find some given parameters to feel confident about planning ahead. This explains why the frontal lobe is generating some arbitrary decisions regarding what the future has in store for us.
All of us like to appear self sufficient, confident and able. The brain tries all sorts of tricks to protect this image and feels threatened when it fails. Emergency situations may unmask many of our vulnerabilities. Our attentional resources are limited, we do not multitask as we would like to think. Also salient information usurps our attention regardless of our intent to focus on something else. Currently our attentional space is monopolized by anything related to the corona virus.
Thus I have delineated some unconscious dimensions of the mind and cognitive markers that are occurring currently in all of us in varied extents. This is usually the thought process in us in emergencies like this pandemic as our brains are continuously adjusting to the “new normal”.