Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brain Imaging Highlights the Mind/Brain Problem

Modern studies of the brain use sophisticated imaging techniques, MRIs, PET scans, and others in an effort to isolate functions to specific parts of the brain. At first these techniques seemed extremely promising. However, when subjects were given more tests to highlight specific facets of memory and perception, the results were often unexpected. Storage of memories could more around. It might be different in young people and older people. These were fascinating findings and while not negating previous findings they amplified them, and, as often in science, the amplification led to new questions.

Probably the most important part of the book is the final chapter in which Le Fanu reflects on what the findings have shown about the brain and what still remains a mystery. Among the mysteries are imagination, reasoning, and free will. Perhaps the remaining most significant mystery is the self. Nearly everyone perceives themselves as a distinct being. We can think about our thoughts, and most of us have the sensation that our self is located somewhere in the forehead between the eyes. Neuroscience has not yet been able to find the mind that integrates brain functions, so we are left with the mind/brain problem. A problem that has troubled philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years.

I highly recommend this book. The author does a goof job presenting technical information in language
most lay people can understand. He also makes an excellent case for the gap between what neuroscience has been able to accomplish, and that is a great deal, and the still unexplained mysteries of the mind.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.