Mind the Brain

Mind the Brain

Mind the Brain

Our first step in understanding the mind, is to understand neurons

Kandel et al., 1995, 3

Julia and John are talking about the Mind and Brain

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Julia

Dear Sir, my professor has told me to contact you wrt an internship at your magazine

Today 16:42

John

Hello Julia! Yes, Cho told me about you. Please just call me John! 😊

Today 16:43

Julia

Hi John! So what can you tell me about the summer internship?

Today 16:43

John

We have a deal with the university where you get both paid and credit for working with us

Today 16:44   

Julia

That’s great! Just what I was looking for! 😊                                          

Today 16:45

John

Cho told me you wrote a great paper about Mind and Brain, and that is exactly what we are looking for.

Today 16:46   

Julia

I saw that your article referenced it, that was so cool!  😊                 

Today 16:46

John

Yep, but then there’s the boring part too: we need an intern to also do some basic copyediting, fact checking, and data entry

Today 16:47   

Julia

I understand that the internship is a lot of menial work too, getting to learn the ropes etc.

Today 16:47

John

Indeed, writing for a large public is different from writing essays

Today 16:48   

Julia

I look forward to your feedback and comments then!                        

Today 16:49

John

Happy to oblige! Do you already have an idea for an article?

Today 16:49   

Julia

Well, I really liked the philosophy of mind class, so now I’m looking into the history and philosophy of neuroscience

Today 16:50

John

I saw there was something of that in your essay already

Today 16:51   

Julia

Yes! Some of the early stuff is really fascinating and still very similar to what we do now

Today 16:51

John

Sounds interesting, I’ll send you a some instructions and look forward to your draft!

Today 16:52   

Julia

That’s great!  😊                                                                                         

Today 16:52

… Continue to read the conversation between John and Julia 
on Saturday 3th July…

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The Mental Life of Brains

The Mental Life of Brains

The Mental Life of Brains

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Brains are alive, part of a living organism

Biology can tell us a great deal about how brains work qua living tissue: their metabolism, their chemistry, how they react to substances that penetrate the blood/brain barrier, the effect of hormones released by various parts of the brain on the rest of the organism, etc..

But what can biology tell us is about what’s it like to be a brain, to have a brain, to feel, think, and want with a brain? Can it also tell us something about consciousness?

Step by step since the 19th century biologists and physiologists have managed to reverse engineer all kinds of mental functions (perception, language, memory, etc.) by localizing them in the brain and relating cognition in human and non-human animals. As Darwin argued: “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind” (Darwin The Descent of Man 1871, 106). The theory of evolution established a continuum between animals and humans, not only with respect to their bodies, but also their minds: instincts, skills, and higher forms of cognition were shown to be adapted, evolved, and to come in degrees: “the activities of organisms other than our own, when analogous to those activities of our own which we know to be accompanied by certain mental states, are in them accompanied by analogous mental states.” (Romanes Animal Intelligence 1882, 4-5)

If humans and animals have similar brain structures, we’d expect similar mental functions as well. When we yell “fetch”, we expect the dog not just to hear the word, but also to understand it and to retrieve the ball we’ve thrown. This requires the brain to do something with the sound, to process it in a certain way, which we would expect to involve some form of consciousness.

Some theories point out that having a bigger, better brain has evolutionary advantages, that the things a brain allows us to do, such as speech and pattern matching, have real-world applications in detecting danger or prey and allowing for better coordination while hunting.

However, is that all?

Is the mental life of brains exhausted in these straightforward effects and is everything else just a side-show?

Culture, art, science, politics, etc. all mere by-effects of a runaway evolutionary feedback loop?

Does consciousness have no purpose or meaning beyond helping us pick among the fighting, fleeing, feeding, and the fourth “f”?

Is the whole history of humanity after the agricultural revolution one gigantic, baroque epicycle?

Or is there more to be said about the mental life of brains?

Are brains more than a biological mechanism to keep us alive more efficiently?

Are we more than hyper-efficient animals?

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Brainpatch

Brainpatch

Brainpatch

The brain is susceptible of many operations, which may, in various cases, preserve the life of the patients…
Wounds of this organ … are almost as easily cured, as those of most of the other

Quesnay 1743, tr. 1750

Cho and John are talking about the following article:
Organoids to Rebuild the Brain

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

Cho

So which new brain-things are your going to discuss  😉                   

Today 15:42

John

Some medical technology, but mainly BCI’s

Today 15:43

Cho

BCI’s???   😯                                                                                                 

Today 15:43

John

Cho

I know what it means, I was just surprised  😄                                     

Today 15:45

John

Why? 😊

Today 15:44   

Cho

There’s a limited number of legitimate applications in medicine, like brain-controlled prosthetics, but for now it is mostly hype

Today 15:45

John

What do you mean?

Today 15:45   

Cho

Like the Neuralink, and getting a brain implant so you can change the channel on your TV

Today 15:46

John

That’s not actually how it is marketed you know … and not all BCI require surgery

Today 15:47   

Cho

Fine, I’m just a bit skeptical about it for now. 😏                                  

Today 15:47

John

That’s OK, we’re writing about the future possibilities, so we’re allowed a bit of science fiction here

Today 15:48   

Cho

So, learning stuff overnight without having to study and augmentation

Today 15:48

John

A little bit of that, but also some very different stuff

Today 15:49   

Cho

Such as?                                                                                                       

Today 15:49

John

Besides BCI’s we talk about possibilities for healing the brain through stem cell transplants

Today 15:50   

Cho

OK, that is something quite different indeed …                                    

Today 15:51

John

Or using brain organoids to replace pieces of the brain affected by a stroke or cancer removal

Today 15:51   

Cho

Now those are indeed very interesting to me! Send me the article and I’ll happily go through it

Today 15:52

John

Sending as we speak! 😉

Today 15:53   

… The End

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Zap goes the Neuron

Zap goes the Neuron

If I do not greatly deceive myself, I have succeeded in realizing… the hundred years’ dream of physicists and physiologists, to wit, the identity of the nervous principle with electricity

read more

Oubliette

Oubliette

Oubliette

The advantage of a bad memory is that, several times over, one enjoys the same good things for the first time

Nietzsche Human all too Human, 580

Cho and John are talking about the following article:
The Abyss

In this post the dialogue is realised by an interaction of virtual characters, for more information please check the page “Virtual characters

John

The last topic I wanted to discuss with you is brain damage and diseases

Today 15:41   

Cho

I suppose you also have the classics here … Gage, Tan, HM, Clive Wearing

Today 15:42

John

Not so fast! Yes, Phineas Gage we have, “Tan” … that’s Louis Leborgne , right?

Today 15:43

Cho

Right, and “HM” is Henry Molaison 😉                                                   

Today 15:43

John

Oh, of course, we have him! Everyone knows him now because of the movie “Memento”.

Today 15:44   

Cho

I liked that movie because it is surprisingly accurate 😊                    

Today 15:45

John

Can I quote you on that? 😊

Today 15:44   

Cho

Sure, most blockbusters deal with memory loss in totally implausible ways, so … 👍

Today 15:45

John

We actually have him in the article for multiple reasons.

Today 15:45   

Cho

Obviously: like Leborgne, he too suffered from epileptic seizures, and his memory loss was due to the operation to “cure” them

Today 15:46

John

Indeed! We go into detail about why splitting the brain in half sometimes works

Today 15:47   

Cho

Yeah, it isn’t really a “cure” though 😏                                                          

Today 15:47

John

That’s what we try to point out, but it is similar to brain cancer: better to cut it out

Today 15:48   

Cho

I see your point, the lesser evil, but it is frustrating                             

Today 15:48

John

What is? 

Today 15:49   

Cho

Not actually being able to heal it, only to treat it with such coarse interventions

Today 15:49

John

The next article actually is about the future and the brain

Today 15:50   

Cho

Meaning new medical technologies?                                                      

Today 15:51

John

Yes and no … 😉

Today 15:51   

… Continue to read the conversation between John and Cho 
on Saturday 12th June…

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Zap goes the Neuron

Zap goes the Neuron

If I do not greatly deceive myself, I have succeeded in realizing… the hundred years’ dream of physicists and physiologists, to wit, the identity of the nervous principle with electricity

read more