Neurophrenology


Scannily, cannily,
Neuropsychologists
Use pretty pictures to
Search for the mind;

Sadly, it’s no more than
Neophrenology—
Looking for lumps of a
Different kind

I think if I read one more article using fMRI (or any other brain scan) to find the substrate for this that or the other experiential phenomenon, I may have to hurt somebody.

And not just because it is technologically inadequate; it is also that they are looking at the wrong thing. What we call “mind” is not (and, I would wager all my ink, can never be) found in snapshots of the brain–it is extended both in time and space. Don’t get me wrong–I am not proposing any sort of supernatural mind, of non-physical stuff; rather, that which we call mind is inferred from our own and others’ behavior, as we and they interact with a changing world over time. Such things are no more reducible to instantaneous brain states than “War and Peace” is reducible to a limerick.

Comments

  1. zekehoskin says

    Points for literacy I tried scoring
    So I read till I heard myself snoring
    Pick the very best themes –
    The great writers, it seems
    Could find ways to make *anything* boring.

  2. Shekar says

    Your critique does cause considerable woe
    Until you’ve read about Damasio
    So please don’t get too pissed
    There are good neuropsychologists
    For when you recognize Miley Cyrus
    Indeed she’s not located in the fusiform gyrus
    A lesion there does cause prosopagnosia
    But localization of function is not what we proposia
    Damasio, Mesulam and Edelman all admit what is unknown
    But why not distributed networks united by convergence zones

    Sorry, I couldn’t find a word any other word that rhymed with gyrus.

  3. cm says

    “War and Peace” is [not] reducible to a limerick

    Why must you taunt me so?! :-)

    Tolstoy, the late Russian sage!
    I’ve actually not read a page.
    Historical work?
    Philosophical quirk?
    (I use mine to test the strain gauge!)

  4. Acolyte of Sagan says

    I’m sorry, but I wasn’t able
    To make a limerick from Tolstoy’s big fable.
    ‘cos first I must read it
    But my horses do need it
    To prop up the wall of their stable*.

    *I don’t really have horses or a stable.
    Actually, I don’t have War and Peace either.

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