1 Mar 2007
(Sources: See bottom .)
Hair in Mammals ( feathers in Dinosaurs) play the major role in the physical positioning of neuron-cells in the brain . There are structures mirroring ,for instance , the physical structure of the snout in the thalamus, the brain-stem , the cortex . The driving force is the mechanoreceptors at the base of each hair and evolution .
In a competitive environment , the neural-network in the brain that has a closer correlation with actual physical structure has a slight advantage . The time-intervals here are of the order of 25 milliseconds , so physical structure is significant .
So , each baby in the womb already develops a set of mirror neurons defining the self based on data from the mechanoreceptors in its body-hairs , but especially in the cranial hair . (“Why is cranial hair always present in a baby? The brain goes this side , dummy .”)
From long mammalian history , whiskers around the mouth are especially important . Hence the prevalence of moustaches in all sexes .
The brain is extremely plastic , so manipulation of hair and follicles directly influence mirror-networks in the brain , not only at cortex level , but at sub-cortex level as well .
Shaving , hairdressing , depilation , etc has a direct effect on the neuron-mirroring organization of the brain .
“Somato-sensory system” (aka neuronal mirrors)
Loss of hair :
From the above , it follows that loss of classes of mechanoreceptors will result in the release of certain mirror-neurons to be used in other duties (due to the plasticity of the brain) .
The Toba event (circa 72 000 bce) triggered forced wearing of clothes (due to the cold .) The differentiation between body and head lice (from genetic evidence) indicates a rapid decrease of body-hair , thereby freeing up a large number of mirror-neurons for cultural duties . Once this process started , the positive feedback element represented by the greater survival potential of enhanced cultural capability led to the triumph of the less hairy ones .
The system is especially sensitive around mouth whiskers . Note rats , bats , otters , any mammal , birds , even insects .
In humans , moustaches are associated with aggression and social status based on aggression . (ref Celts , Sergeants , law-enforcement , warriors ,etc) . The message being sent is that the wearer of aforementioned moustache has not wasted any mirror-neurons on empathy , so beware .
Females go to great pains to eradicate moustaches , but also any other mechanoreceptors (hairs) , especially around the face . In any culture . This frees up even more mirror neurons , making them generally smarter , but much better at putting themselves into another’s place . Remember , in competitive environments even a small advantage accrues over time .
The question has to asked : in some dominant societies ( Republican Romans , Americans , Victorians) the males shaved their faces . What advantage did this give ? The reason seems to be that their officials were elected . If you want to appear caring for the voter and non-threatening , don’t have a moustache or beard . If you want a strong , military appearance , the reverse is true . See historical portraits .
Shaving the head :
From the above arguments , this should lead to lead to a distinct realignment of the mirror-neurons in the brain . This translates as a discontinuity in the sense of self on a nuts-and-bolts level .
Hence its popularity with marines , armies , monks , religions , involuntary mind changers .
It actually changes the mapping in the brain . If a strong new meme-structure is available , the new mapping will mirror that . Brainwashed .
Of special note here is the punishment meted out to female collaborators after WW2 (France) . Shaving the head was usually considered sufficient punishment . What they didn’t mention was the mirror-neuron realignment after the event due to social; pressure .
Also note the hairloss correlated with age . The wisdom of age is normally ascribed to age , but a better approximation would be that loss of hair freed enough neurons to be smarter .
Some other corollaries:
Don’t try to think seriously while the wind is blowing . Houses are conducive to deep thought .
Scratching your head when puzzled : neurons busy with the problem are pre-empted by the mechanoreceptors . The problem is reset and can be approached from a different angle . A powerful argument against shaving the head . Note that systems that shave the head are very enduring (ie not open to alternatives) (Monks of all descriptions)
Optimal length of hair .
Each sex , occupation and society will have an optimal length of hair in the spectrum : Too long , too many brain resources used , too short , inflexibility .
Body hair and body image.
The mirror neurons in your brain form a body-image based on the mechanoreceptors of all the hairs on your body . Note that this includes the inside skin : ie the villi of the lungs , guts , veins , arteries , cellwalls .
Just looking at external skin , this defines how fat or thin your image of yourself is . The brain can only see those parts of the skin that has hair . In obesity areas like the armpits , thighs , lap-folds which have been chafed away , are blank . Changing areas of skin around them by dieting or exercise won’t change the image .
Depilation as result of deodorants and fashion has probably more to do with the present epidemic of obesity than diet or exercise . The poor brain cannot get enough feedback that it understands of where the boundaries of it’s body is supposed to be .
A low tech , risk-free and optimal solution is available :
The trick is to redefine the body image .
The skin is full of mechanoreceptors , even where there is no hair .
Stimulate them to mimic hair .
The method :
Take a hair brush , (or any multipointed object) , put the bristles on the skin (say under the armpit) , indent it slightly , then pull it slightly until you feel the skin pulling .
Remove and repeat on a different spot .
Essential after plastic surgery to redefine the new body limits .
Time to observable effect : I don’t know (I’m only going to try this myself now) . Image changes should appear after about 2 weeks , though cellulite should disappear sooner .
Hair might appear in previous hairless areas . Leave them .
Do not do this before an exam : you are using neurons for the body image that can be more profitably used in the exam .
What really pisses me off is that grooming is so important at a neuronal level .
Shaving with blunt razor will make a man measurably stupider . Sitting by an open window with the wind on your hair will make you measurably stupider . A tight shirt will reduce your IQ .
And I thought appearances didn’t matter .
Some other considerations :
Image pathologies :
Eating disorders usually have psychological components . Just using the method above should help , but the pathology usually in stubborn cases would be rooted not only in the self-image but also in the image the person has of what other people are thinking .
Try displacement and overload combined : dress the person in a furry suit ( teddy bear ,rabbit ,etc) . Let the person roleplay into the character . If you really , really want to give them a traumatic shock , then shave the suit while they are wearing it . Guaranteed to redefine the self-image , but in an unknown direction .
Partial depilation :
The famous Bikini wax :
Repeated applications will result in swollen genitals , as the brain does not know the boundaries anymore .
Plastic surgery :
The new structure is not trained into the desired body-image . Hit or miss.
The hairy human:
As stated , all humans are hairy . Some (like the Chinese) have fewer coarse hairs . If you look closely , you will see that they (and all woman) are just as furry , but much finer .
Since it takes more force to move a coarse hair , the corresponding effect in the brain’s neural network is accordingly weighted .
Societies civilized for a long time will select for fine hair (the female component is selected for non-coarse hair because visible coarse facial hair is associated with aggression : see moustache above .)
The Shaven Neck.
Humans wearing a shirt and (for good measure) a tie are continually subjected to mechanoreceptors stimulation if their neck-hair is long . (Regardless of the length of their top-hair .)
This reduces their performance in a directional way :
If they are subservient , it makes them irritable and inclined to bullying .
If they are not subservient , it makes them irritable and inclined to rebelliousness .
Hence , armies and prisons require clean necks , usually (but not always ) associated with short hair .
This is why the tie is still de rigeur .
What bugs me is that wearing a tie actually enhances neuronal performance . You are smarter if you have a clean neck and a tie than if you do not have a clean neck . (This explains a lot about the Israeli cabinet) .
Notice that the military , police and politicians always have clean necks .
And you wonder why they are in control . They have evolved systems that make them smarter .
“Seeking the neural code” Scientific American , Dec 2006
“The Religious Experience and Proximal rewards” , also “Primitives _0”