Read e-book online An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain PDF

By Diane Ackerman

ISBN-10: 1439125082

ISBN-13: 9781439125083

The such a lot bold and enlightening paintings so far from the bestselling writer of A average historical past of the Senses, An Alchemy of Mind combines an artist's eye with a scientist's erudition to light up, as by no means earlier than, the magic and mysteries of the human mind.

Long valuable through literary readers for her unusual skill to bridge the distance among paintings and technological know-how, celebrated scholar-artist Diane Ackerman returns with the ebook she was once born to put in writing. Her impressive new paintings, An Alchemy of Mind, deals an unheard of exploration and occasion of the psychological fantasia during which we spend our days -- and does for the human brain what the bestselling A typical heritage of the Senses did for the actual senses.

Bringing a helpful lady viewpoint to the subject, Diane Ackerman discusses the technology of the mind as purely she will be able to: with beautiful, rapid language and imagery that paint an surprisingly lucid and colourful photograph for the reader. and likewise to explaining reminiscence, concept, emotion, desires, and language acquisition, she stories at the most up-to-date discoveries in neuroscience and addresses debatable topics just like the results of trauma and male as opposed to girl brains. In prose that isn't easily available but additionally appealing and electrical, Ackerman distills the tough, goal truths of technology in an effort to yield shiny, seriously anecdotal reasons a couple of variety of existential questions relating to recognition, human idea, reminiscence, and the character of id.

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Additional resources for An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain

Sample text

We are therefore planning further anatomical studies of fine-­scale connectomics in the visual cortex: the study of synaptic networks (wij) between Pr oject M indS cope • 31 individual neurons (i and j) in cortical circuits. These studies will include large-­scale reconstructions of cortical circuits with serial-­section electron microscopy as well as more targeted experiments using rabies virus for trans-­synaptic labeling. Because specific individual connections in cortical networks are likely to be related to specific physiological responses, these anatomical experiments will be carried out in animals in which single neurons had previously been studied physiologically during behavior.

It is now possible, in principle, to investigate entire sensorimotor transformations and learning processes across the whole brain, from sensory input to behavior. This is especially important because certain brain functions cannot easily be decomposed into constituents and 2 2 • A hre ns need to be studied at the whole-­brain level. Take, for example, a human adjusting its walking pattern to a sudden gust of strong wind to keep it from toppling over. A plausible descriptive mechanism is as follows: circuits controlling movements generate the walking rhythm (which we here call the motor program); the wind hits the body and is reported by sensors in the skin; the vestibular system—­the system responsible for the sense of balance—­kicks in as it senses an unintended shift in the body’s position; both the visual system and the vestibular system signal to the motor system to change its motor program; and higher-­ order cognitive control makes sure that the change in walking behavior stays in place for the remainder of the journey, until the wind subsides.

Many of these project to the 18,000 neurons of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), part of the visual thalamus. The axons of LGN cells in turn connect with some of the 360,000 neurons of the primary visual cortex (V1). Detailed anatomical tracing has revealed its rather elaborated hierarchical structure with about a dozen visual associational cortical areas surrounding V1 (compared to at least three dozen in primates). The visual information is further processed while passing through V1 and associational cortical areas, making up a network of networks (see color plate 3).

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An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain by Diane Ackerman

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