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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Neuroscience of Thinking 2

Here is the route Ramachandran takes to explain thinking employing neuroscience:

1.  He begins by analyzing synesthesia--the cross activation in the brain between color and number in some of his patients and other persons sometimes considered abnormal and indeed extraordinary.  He identifies the centers of the brain that are the best candidates for this phenomenon and why it is much more than a hallucination.

2.  He demonstrates that all humans have the ability to make connections across the senses like sound and shape and touch and smell and taste that is present in our use of metaphors and maps and "cross modal abstraction." He maps the parts of the human brain that are responsible for making these connections even beyond synesthesia. He conjectures why and how the brain developed in humans through natural selection to do this.

3.  He indicates the role of bodily gesture culminating in verbal gesture or language to link sense perceptions through categories (including metaphors, maps, and models) in order to communicate and plan ahead. He points out that in the development towards homo sapiens "there is a pre-existing, non-arbitrary translation between the visual appearance of an object represented in the fusiform gyrus and the auditory representation in the auditory cortex." He demonstrates a "non-arbitrary cross activation between the visual area of the fusiform and the Broca's area in the front of the brain that generates program which control the muscles of vocalization, phonation, and articulation.

4.  He discusses the role of "mirror neurons," those corresponding neurons that can be seen firing when watching other persons gesture and articulate. In other words, he discusses the embrained body's ability to not only imitate, but to actively re-experience the intentions of others who gesture manually to point out things and actions in the environment and who gesture by sounds becoming words in a world through language and story.

Through evolutionary biology and neuroscience, Ramachandran explains the brains development and functioning to do what is a signature capacity for our species to use language and other forms for communication, i.e. the capacity for symbolic thinking.

But symbolic thinking is not merely related to things and other bodies in the world. It also is a relation to one's self and other selves. In the developing capacity of homo, the naked ape, thinking symbolically is the emergence of consciousness, the inner direct experience of that acting with others in the world.

That's next.

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