The Brain As A Radio DJ


I’ve been a guest on live radio a fair bit in my time.

My background is in the performing arts, so radio DJs would invite me to talk about a new album or to sing a song live on air.

It’s fascinating to watch a live radio broadcast in action. The DJ has a lot of buttons to deal with. Different jingles need to be played at different times.

On the hour, they push the button for the news headlines jingle.
At half past, they push the button for the traffic news jingle.

At other times, they push the button that plays a promo for other shows on the station.

They won’t think of it this way but here’s the rule that the DJ is following: When this condition is true, press that button to play that audio.

The brain is like a radio DJ except it has brain pathways and implicit memory responses instead of buttons and audio.

When this condition seems true, activate that brain pathway to play that response.

Here’s a real example. “When my partner fails to call me and the situation resembles the day Mum left, I panic.”

What if the radio station decided to no longer have news on the hour, but to have a quiz instead? Simple. They just change what the button does.

On the hour, the DJ would press the same button, but it would play a different sound.

This is how the brain works after memory reconsolidation too.

When now resembles then, the brain still goes to the same brain pathway, but it plays a different response.

“When my partner fails to call me and the situation resembles the day Mum left, I feel calm and curious.”

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