Comprising the totality of our ability to interact with the world, the workings of the brain are almost mystical; one of the biggest mysteries that mankind has yet to solve.
Let's break down why that previous statement is so intriguing...
Well ... the YOU, that you know and are, isn't what you see in the mirror. It is a spongy lump of fat and protein existing in the complete dark. That's the real and only YOU.
What's amazing is that this lump is able to decipher the incoming signals it receives from a variety of sensors. For example, it receives information from light sensors ( occular system ), temperature and pressure sensors ( somatosensory system ), giroscopes and accelerometers ( vestibular system ), air pressure change frequency sensors ( auditory system ), and even chemical diffusion sensors ( olfactory and gustatory systems ). All of this information is combined, stored, and interpreted in a mysterious way that creates a model of the world around us. This model we each have of what is occurring in the world around us is only the product of these senses in combination with our 1.5 kg lump of neurons and glial cells.
As someone on Reddit put it quite concisely,
"You don't have a skeleton inside you. You're a brain. You are inside a skeleton. You're piloting a bone mech that's using meat armor."
It is fascinating how the brain is able to sift through all the input it is given in order to generate a model of the world, and then to keep track of things in that world through memory and prediction. Sifting involves knowing what to keep and what to throw away as well as knowing which information to give greater weight. A great example is human vision. Using the information we get from our eyes our brain can do things like detect objects, track moving objects, keep track of objects that are no longer in view, and predict the movement of things.
Having a theoretical model for how this all works would be nice, but I'm fairly sure we won't have anything close to that in my lifetime. Instead, we must take the slow approach of creating mathematical descriptions of the information provided by sensors and try to mimic what humans can often do quite intuitively.
The mysterious abilities of the brain inspire me to craft new ways of processing, interpreting, fusing, and predicting sensor data from non-biological sensors. This means that I want a strong mathematical foundation for my methods, but that I do not turn a blind-eye to new discoveries in neuroscience. I find it deeply rewarding to create new software, hardware, and methods that allow others, as well as myself, to collect new forms of data previously inaccessible, or think about problems from a new perspective.