Sunday, 14 March 2010

Steve Connor: The workings of grey matter are still a very grey area

I was just reading this:

Steve Connor: The workings of grey matter are still a very grey area

and have some comments...

1. This business of certain parts of the brain being allocated to certain functions is questionable. The concept of "neuroplasticity," suggests that a brain, damaged by an accident or stroke, etc, may rewire itself, whereupon the motor functions responsible for operating the muscles of the left side of the face, for example, are allocated to another part of the brain, completely spontaneously.
2. No two people, as far as I can tell, manipulate information in the same way, and yet all people are more or less equally capable intellectually (put another way: I've yet to meet a stupid person, although I've met many who believed they were and behaved accordingly). This phenomenon is sometimes known as "difference of opinion". As such, the brain appears to be fluid in its operation - differences in the conclusions that people draw may be impacted by the objective that they may have established for themselves; and the importance/relevance they attach to the different factors presented to them, given the objective.
3. Steve Connor is correct: the only thing we have to study the brain is, well, the brain. The way to study the brain is to study a person's train of thought, if one has the patience. In this way, one may map a person's thought processes quite effectively, I've found, always remembering that a person's ideas, as presented, are merely a snapshot in time, and ought not to be viewed as immutable and unchanging (ie, people shouldn't be bound to their every utterance!).
4. Studying the physical brain tells one very little about the brain's operational methodologies (which as I wrote are probably peculiar to each individual): one could look at Einstein's pickled brain for a hundred years, and still not uncover what it was that sparked his discoveries, nor what caused him to pursue them in a way that allowed him to communicate what he'd found to others.

In the final analysis, one learns when one needs to learn for one's own purposes - anything else is unnecessary effort, I've found.

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