The Brain and Its Environment
All environmental experiences enter the individual through the brain. In turn, the brain codes, organizes, and responds to such environmental input by way of the motor systems and behavior. Behavior is controlled by the brain, and without an understanding of the brain, we have no way of understanding behavior.
The human brain--a walnut-shaped, grapefruit-sized, three-pound mass of gelatinous tissue--is the most immensely complicated, awe-inspiring, and fascinating entity in the universe. "In the human head there are forces within forces within forces, as in no other cubic half-foot of the universe we know," wrote Nobel Prize--winning neurophysiologist Roger Sperry (quoted in Fincher, 1982:23). Within this blob of jelly--which consumes 20 percent of the body's energy while representing only 2 percent of body mass--lie our thoughts, memories, self-concepts, desires, emotions, loves, hates, intelligence, creativity, and the contents of our cultures.
As the executor of all that we do and think, the brain and its processes must be a vital part of the biosociologist's repertoire of knowledge. We can no longer afford to view the brain as a mysterious and foreboding "black box" that can be safely ignored as irrelevant to our work. Although we need not concern ourselves with the minutiae of brain anatomy and physiology any more than with the minutiae of molecular genetics, we should learn neuroscience's basic language so that we understand what they are talking about. In anticipation of major advances in the neurosciences, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) spearheaded the effort, which culminated in President George Bush declaring the 1990s as "the Decade of the Brain"