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Mental Maps Reveal the Brain's Plug-and-Play Plasticity: Scientific American

Researchers continue to probe the limits of the brain's plasticity

 

To the brain, electronic hardware is no different from flesh and blood, suggests a study at the University of California, Berkeley. In the experiment, monkeys learned to control a computer cursor—a stand-in for a bionic limb—through microelectrodes wiretapping their motor cortex. Although this feat is nothing new, the researchers showed for the first time that a stable memory of the new accessory had formed in the brain.

 

During normal development, a baby learns to control its limbs by creating a mental map of the movable parts of its body—a motor homunculus of sorts. The new finding parallels that process, says neuroscientist Jose Carmena, who led the study, “but it’s about a prosthetic device, and that’s what is profound about it. We’re talking about an extension of your body’s schema.” In other words, once the brain-machine interface gets up to speed, our gray matter might already be set up to achieve effortless, plug-and-play-like control of electronic add-ons.

 

2 Dec 2009

Frederik Joelving


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The "Interpreter" in Your Head Spins Stories to Make Sense of the World

The "Interpreter" in Your Head Spins Stories to Make Sense of the World | Creatively Aging | Scoop.it

We humans think we make all our decisions to act consciously and willfully. We all feel we are wonderfully unified, coherent mental machines and that our underlying brain structure must reflect this overpowering sense. It doesn’t. No command center keeps all other brain systems hopping to the instructions of a five-star general. The brain has millions of local processors making important decisions. There is no one boss in the brain. You are certainly not the boss of your brain. Have you ever succeeded in telling your brain to shut up already and go to sleep?


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The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World | Creatively Aging | Scoop.it

Why is the brain divided? Despite much research and speculation, neurologists have struggled to make sense of hemisphere differences, or of their impact on human thought and experience.

 

In this remarkable and absorbing book, Iain McGilchrist argues that the two hemispheres have not merely different skills, but wholly different perspectives on the world. Drawing on a vast body of recent brain research, illustrated with fascinating case material, he suggests that the left hemisphere is designed to exploit the world effectively, but is narrow in focus and prizes theory over experience. It prefers mechanisms to living things, ignores whatever is not explicit, lacks empathy, and is unreasonably certain of itself. By contrast, the right hemisphere has a much broader, more generous understanding of the world, but lacks the certainty to counter this onslaught, because what it knows is more subtle and many-faceted.


It is vital that the two hemispheres work together, but in Western culture there is evidence of a power struggle, with the left hemisphere becoming increasingly dominant. The result is a dehumanized society, where a rigid and bureaucratic mentality, obsessed with structure and mechanism, holds sway, at huge cost to human happiness and the world around us.

 

Iain McGilchrist's book on Amazon.com

 

 


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