April 08, 2007

Messy Reptilian Brains

Sharon Begley uses her article April 9, 2007 article in Newsweek, In Our Messy Reptilian Brains to review a new book by Johns Hopkins professor of neuroscience David Linden The Accidental Mind.

In it, Begley quotes Linden as saying that while the brain is impressive in function, in design, the brain is "quirky, inefficient and bizarre ... a weird agglomeration of ad hoc solutions that have accumulated throughout millions of years of evolutionary history."

Begley uses Linden's example of blindsight to explain why the human brain is "essentially a mouse brain with extra toppings." Blindsight is when some blind people are able to sense and describe objects they cannot see. Folks with blindsight, then, have lost their "traditional" vision, located in the traditional visual cortex, but still retain some use of the "amphibian visual system", located in the midbrain. They can sense objects, but "because the midbrain is not connected to higher cognitive regions, they have no conscious awareness of an object's location..."

In typical Begley style, she compares the brain and musical technology: "the brain is like an iPod built around an eight-track cassette player."

Read on for more fun, and check out Linden's book for even more fun!


David Linden said...

Thanks for your kind words about my book! Free chapters, notecards and other goodies may be found at accidentalmind.org

Best wishes,
David Linden

Anonymous said...

"the brain is like an iPod built around an eight-track cassette player."

That's how I always thought of Windows: a Mac built on a DOS platform.