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The five episode series focuses on topics from memory to psychedelic drugs.

Netflix’s “The Mind, Explained,” narrated by Emma Stone, answers thought-provoking questions about the mind in five episodes. The series takes a deeper look into the functioning of the mind. It highlights the suggestibility of LSD, inconsistencies in memories, subliminal meanings of dreams and more.  

Episode 1: “Memory”

The first episode, “Memory” is a bit slow and resembles a general psychology education class material but still provides interesting background information for the rest of the series. It begins with a woman named Melanie Mignucci detailing her memories of 9/11. She describes her panicked phone call with her mother, who worked in New York City at the time. Mignucci recalled how smoke from the towers circled outside her classroom window. She continues telling her story from that day, unaware that nothing she knew about her memory was true.

The “memory” this day never occurred — it had simply been altered over time, leaving her able to recall something that never happened. After a few more similar stories, the viewer is left in a state of skepticism after realizing memories aren’t necessarily reliable most of what people think they know isn’t completely true. The idea of this unreliability was unsettling, as these are how people remember their entire lives.

Episode 2: “Dreams”

Dreams” begins with an introduction to sleep cycle and dream structure. Essentially, dreams are made of memories and are acted out through basic brain functions as one sleeps. The show then goes on to detail the history of the first recorded dreams, dating back to the ancient Mesopotamia (the beginning of human civilization.) They scribed their dreams in hieroglyphics, believing they were instructions from a higher power. There are various dream theories, and the episode highlights Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s theories Freud and Jung believed dreams are the brain’s subconscious activities that give one insight into innermost feelings and thoughts, while Cajal thought dreams are meaningless electrical impulses that create equally meaningless visions. The episode wraps up with the idea of lucid dreaming, or being aware that one is dreaming, and how to prompt it. “Dreams” is one of the most interesting episodes in the series. It provides strong insight into the way the human mind works and offers exciting theories as to why people dream

Episode 3: “Anxiety”

Episode 3 takes an in-depth look into anxiety, what causes it and the different types of disorders. It starts off with facts about anxiety and how it is known as the most common mental illness. Even the narrator, Emma Stone, suffers from panic disorder. It is also shown that animals suffer from anxiety as well and that the underlying factor is adaptation/survival instincts.

There’s a lot of factual information throughout the episode, but one of the most interesting facts us about the way the brain functions when someone is experiencing anxiety. Certain parts light up and react differently with one another as a result. It shows that the brain’s chemistry can physically change from traumatic experiences. This episode is very educational and extremely fascinating to watch. Also, because anxiety is prevalent in the college student population, it’s oddly comforting understanding the science behind the brain’s chemistry and how it affects people.

Episode 4: “Mindfulness”

“Mindfulness” starts off with a man named Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche who mastered the art of meditation on his path to becoming a Buddhist monk. Later in the episode, researchers perform a brain scan on him and claim the results “befuddle science.” As a 41-year-old, he has the brain activity of a 33-year-old. They then had him mediate in an fMRI machine, causing a shocking discovery. They found that his activity and empathy circuits shot up, producing results that resemble the brain of an epileptic having a seizure. Meditation is a powerful tool, and there are over 100 hundred types of meditation. It’s also a practice that’s popular around the world, and apparently, even the Beatles partook in it. “Mindfulness” was thought-provoking, but it began to drag on because there’s only so much that can be said about it.

Episode 5: “Psychedelics”

This episode was by far the coolest and most controversial. It highlighted the potential medicinal effects of psychoactive drugs on mental health patients and the elderly. It noted how experiments were done and, as a result, there was a huge influx of psychedelics into the rest of the population in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The episode also provided background on the LSD counterculture that gave way to the anti-Vietnam War movement in the U.S.and how it eventually turned to the “demonization” of these types of chemical compounds. It was captivating watching the psychedelic history and the influence it has on culture, research and the mind.

Contact Claire Reilly at reillyce@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.