Sep. 12th, 2006

the_choir: (Fireez)
[livejournal.com profile] child_recalled asked me to post an entry about the neurological and neurochemical backgrounds of memory formation and their implications for multiples, and since the mysterious workings of the mind are one of my main interests, I'm all too happy to oblige.

A note to the reader: I'm not going to go into great detail here, but rather oversimplify things as a means to make them more understandable. If you're further interested in neurology and memory, I recommend getting a textbook from your local library.

"If your soulbond is from France, why can't you speak French?"
"You say your headmate is a pianist, but you can't play the piano!"
"If you have a pilot in your brain, you should be able to fly a plane."
"You're just making them up, they don't exist!"

Stuff like that has been posted to communities and personal journals of plurals more than once. And it's also not uncommon for the plural persons themselves to ask such questions. After all, we claim to be several distinct, individual people, each with their own personalities, personal history and memories.
So why can't we access the skills that some of us possess? Does this mean we're all fake, and that it's nothing but the imagination of the host?

Maybe. I can't discount, on a rational basis, the arguement that I, and other multiples, are just making everything up.
But what I can do is shoot down the arguement that if you cannot access one of your headmate's skills, this constitues as proof that you're making things up.

Memory as such isn't some mystical woo-woo thingy, floating around our brains like clouds across the sky. A memory, especially one that is the basis of a learned skill (such as a foreign language, riding a bike, playing the piano), is formed by the neurons in certain areas of the brain setting up new neuronal pathways or, in some cases, fine-tuning old ones. To be able to ride a bike, neuron A has to make connections to neurons B, C and D, which in turn have to make connections to neurons E and F. You can think of it in terms of joining several computers to build a network.
And, like with building a network of computers, this takes time. Most skills, especially the more complex ones, take a lot of learning before they can be executed with confidence. New pathways don't appear out of the blue, from one second to the other. That would be hideously uneconomical, because learning actually takes a lot of resources and puts considerable strain on the body, and so our brains don't form pathways for stuff that's not important (read: that we don't seem to really need, because we're not repeatedly being confronted with the need for the skill).

So, the bottom line is: If the pathways aren't there, the memory isn't there, and the skill is unaccessible
Now, let's take a look at the brain of a plural. Plurals, like everybody else, posses one, and only one, brain. This brain does what every brain does: it takes care of the body and guides it through the challenges of life.
Let's say this brain belongs to a girl named Jen. Jen lives in the USA, and has never been to France, nor has she ever heard one word of French in School, or from friends, neighbours etc. Now Jen is plural, and one of her headmates is a French girl named Marie. Does this mean Jen should be able to understand French?

If you've been reading along with half your brain turned on, you should be able to answer this for yourself: of course not, because the physical body and physical brain of Jen never had any contact with the language, and therefore the need to build pathways for French never existed. No need, no pathways. It doesn't matter if Marie would like to be able to speak what she thinks of as her mother tongue. The only thing that matters is that there never was a physical, tangible need to speak French.

Let me put this in a little analogy.
Think of the plural's brain as the family computer. It has a certain hardware, let's say a 10GB hard-disk, 256MB of RAM, and a G-Force2 graphics chip. This hardware configuration was bought because it was perfectly all right for the tasks that the original buyer, Jen, needed it for - she doesn't game much, and wanted to save her money for other things. Now, she gets a new roommate, and this roommate, Marie, is a big gamer and wants to play a game with some really high-end graphics. Well, she won't be able to, because the computer lacks the hardware which is necessary for that purpose. If she wants to game, she'll first have to talk Jen into buying new hardware. This then has to be bought and installed before Marie can play WoW.
It's the same with learned skills: most of the time, they're going to need a lot of new hardware before you can have fun with them.

So nope, not being able to access certain skills that your headmates have doesn't invalidate your existance, because it's just not possible. Same as it would be ludicrous to demand a 100-m-dash from a plural whose body is bound to a wheelchair just because one of his headmates can walk.

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