Your brain learned to control your organs. Very little came hard-coded at the start.
Our brains developed first with basic firmware, and not the full operating system, with models of organ behaviour et al, learned. By virtue of its awesomeness, it built its own operating system. If it learned wrongly, disease and abnormal situations occurred. Examples might be epilepsy and some congenital disorders.
But the brain would not be able to cause normal operation if the organs didn’t function the way the did. Every organ has a voice, and a language the brain learns, much in the same way that children pick up the language of their environment as they grow up. This learning starts in the womb. Upon reading what an organ says, if it responds wrongly, it gets a message it interprets as negative. And it tries again with something new, but now more informed. The process iterates at incredible speeds so that the organs do not roll into disequilibrium or instability.
Every organ is an independent machine with inputs, outputs, and a messaging Protocol. The brain figures out which is positive and negative after it attempts control until it figures out what really works. kind of like using what they call ‘system identification’ in the field of control engineering. We’re basically saying that the model for/and control is learned along the way. So that we move from apparent randomness to perceived order. What we call ‘Genetic algorithms’ also might mimic this learning process: starting from an initial guess and iterating through better and better ‘guesses’ (of models and associated control) based on the brains perception of the responses, until ‘flow’ is achieved.
The brain learns to control the heart and heart rate, and to do so optimally, the same way it learns a habit. It seems that once it identifies a feasible direction, equilibrium point, or a way to make an organ work, it seeks to reinforce the associated neural firing pattern by driving the same pattern when close/similar stimuli to the originating stimuli for that pattern exists. This is like the OGY control method for chaotic systems in a way, and how it is possible to sail around the world:
Where am I?
Which wind can/should I catch?
Catch it and ride
I hope it leads home
Jump from wind to wind
I hope it leads home
Jump from wind to wind
Getting closer in general
Repeat until objective achieved.
Its interpretation of overall stability, efficient global equilibrium, or effective local behaviour might be the basis of the brains response to organ behaviour. It is a learning machine that learns equilibrium oriented experiences; perhaps identified by dopamine, endorphins, and similar chemicals. Practically, it attempts to estimate the stable state of the functioning of the organs by seeking what it interprets to be peace in the long run and minimising what it sees as pain.
We could expand this to also say that the brain uses the same mechanism to arrive at ‘all’ its decisions and norms: a kind of reinforcement learning seeking peace, long term. (We may add our personal psychology too.) Reinforcing what leads to peace and what combats pain, as perceived. And then, once it concludes that it has learned adequately or correctly, it feels the need to remain the same (as with the phantom limb phenomenon).
Reinforcement learning makes the brain an obsession generation engine; both good and bad, useful and wasteful. And especially as it got positive feedback then the process started, it will release ‘feelings’ that tempt the person to act such that it can reinforce and establish the associated patterns of peace.
Read, record, respond: the brain does that. Sometimes, ‘respond’ comes before ‘record,’ with reflexes and all the learning going on. Think of a baby crawling. The brain learns its limits. And as the limits expand (stronger bones and muscles), it launches him to his feet over time. Apparently, it must test limits too.
Epilepsy? The brain has a reward circuit for it, I think. It probably ‘feels’ good (or right) when it happens. But why, or how?
If a situation persists, then it may be that we enjoy it in some way. Perhaps the brain thinks that it (epilepsy) is the better of two evils: in the sense of the body temperature rising because of malaria. The brain seeks to reinforce behavior or firing patterns it is more comfortable with (still the peace motive). So if it were not okay with the stimulus
(or neuronal response) that leads to epilepsy? It will try not to reinforce it. Can’t this habit of the brain be replaced?
An example of neuroplasticity: the more a ‘naturally’ grumpy person thinks good happy thoughts, the happier they feel, and therefore, the happier they get. So that they evolve to become, at the least, not naturally grumpy. Neuroplasticity is thus, perhaps, the basis of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), hypnosis, and other such methods for behaviour modification. Also why/how meditation on the Bible changes you. The assumption is that, ‘behaviour,’ whether internal (as in the ‘natural’ function of the body system), or external (as with out attitudes) are represented by patterns of neuronal connections, firings, and firing patterns.
So a question arises: couldn’t we ‘cure’ diseases like epilepsy by harnessing the neuroplasticity principle? By facilitating and/or learning new methods of control? Perhaps this has been explored already.
Neuroplasticity is usually spoken of, it seems, in the context of learning and healing; but there is more. We could say that neuroplasticity is the fundamental attribute of the brain, because that most of its functions and functioning result from it. It is a primary characteristic that makes the brain, the brain. And it results from the design of the brain as a learning machine that evolves itself, significantly motivated by its connections and perceptions.
PS: armchair neuroscience