Presentation on theme: "Steven Rose email@example.com Are you your brain? Steven Rose firstname.lastname@example.org."— Presentation transcript:
1Steven Rose email@example.com Are you your brain?Steven Rose
2St. Augustine’s Questions How does the brain/mind encompass:Vast regions of space and timeAbstract thoughts, numbersThe idea of godLogical propositions and false arguments.
3Brain versus Mind? (Emily Dickinson, 1862) The Brain - is wider than the Sky -For - put them side by side -The one the other will contain -With ease - and you -besideThe Brain is just the weight of GodFor - heft them - Pound for PoundAnd they will differ - if they doAs Syllable from SoundEmily Dickinson, c 1862
4Three Neuro Decades 1990s – decade of the brain 2000s – decade of the mindEU announces €1 billion for a ‘human brain project’ to build a virtual brain through computer simulation.Obama announces BRAIN – a $3billion project tracking all the trillions of connections between nerve cells in the human brain (starting with mouse!) paid for by NIH, DARPA etcWill help ‘epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, autism, dementia..stroke, cerebral palsy….’ (and the military)
5And the reach of the neurosciences grows ever longer NeurolawNeurowarNeuroeconomicsNeuromarketingNeuroaestheticsNeuroeducationNeuroethics……….And neuroculture??
6But something seems to be going wrong Levels of diagnosed psychic distress grow ever higher.Huge scepticism over DSM5No new drugs for depression, schizophrenia etcOver many big pharma companies withdraw from CNS research to the safer ground of genomicsSo is there something rotten at the heart of the neurotechnoscience enterprise?
7The core assumption of modern neuroscience Minds and consciousness are brain processesTo cure the mind one must cure the brainBut these claims are not uncontested
8Brains and Minds: Four philosophical propositions Dualism: Body/brain …. Soul/mind two different types of stuffIdentity: Brain/mind are two aspects of the same phenomenonEpiphenomenalism: Mind emerges from brainMechanical materialism: Minds are ‘nothing but’ brainsNOTE! I am not going to agree with any of these!
9Not all neuroscientists have been hard materialists Descartes and the pineal glandSherrington’s enchanted loomSperry’s downward causationEccles and the liaison brain – the god ofthe synapses
10Some modern Dualists Edelman – you are your brain.. plus free will! Libet - the 350msec gap and the brain’s ‘free won’t’And some closet dualists – Dawkins, Pinker‘only we can rebel against the tyranny of our selfish genes‘if my genes don’t like it they can go jump in the lake’
1119th century materialists Thomas Huxley: Mind is to brain like the whistle to the steam trainMoleschott, Vogt et al: The brain secretes thought like the kidney secretes urine; genius is a matter of phosphorus
12Modern materialists Crick – ‘you are nothing but a bunch of neurons’ Kandel – ‘you are your brain’Silva – ‘ruthless reductionism’Gazzaniga – ‘the ethical brain’LeDoux – ‘synaptic self’Changeaux – ‘neuronal man’
13And some philosophers follow suit Churchland – neurophilosophy and ‘folk psychology’Dennett – ‘consciousness explained’
14Some problems for materialists Subjective experience and qualia – how does conscious experience emerge from brain chemistry/physicsHow did consciousness evolve (Darwin v Russell Wallace)Free will and determinism – ‘my brain made me do it.’
15But if this were trueMinds wouldn’t matter at all – we only need think brainsBut minds do matter; we have self-awareness; minds have reasons, are conscious and are evolved properties of humans, with Darwinian survival functions. These are irreducible properties.So we also have to assume that although there is a qualitative jump between us and our nearest evolutionary relatives (chimps, bonobos) that these and maybe other big brained animals have rudimentary forms of consciousness (Damasio; Nagel)
16fMRI promises to solve the mind/brain question Brain sites for every thought and feeling‘A happy marriage between fMRI and experimental psychology can bridge the divide between mind and brain’
19The Right and the Good: Distributive Justice and Neural Encoding of Equity and Efficiency* Subjects making decisions re allocating meals to children in Ugandan orphanageQuandary: to share limited food equally (equity) but inadequately, or giving enough food to chosen few (efficiency).Result: ‘Insula encodes inequity, putamen efficiency’*Hsu et al Science 320, , 2008
20“Brain Fingerprinting” “How do we determine if a person is a terrorist or spy? There is a new technology, that for the first time, allows us to measure scientifically if specific information is stored in a person’s brain. Brain Fingerprinting technology can determine the presence or absence of specific information, such as terrorist training and associations. This exciting new technology can help….[by EEG recordings]discover if a person:Has committed terrorist actsHas been trained as a terroristIs a terrorist leader…. (from the company website)
21Brain sites for everything Mathematical abilityRomantic loveMoral judgmentsVoting tendencyTerrorist thoughtsPsychopathyAnd of course consciousness
22So what’s the problem? Overestimates the power of fMRI Blood flow surrogate measureTimescale (seconds )too longVolume too great :50mm3 contains5m neurons, 50b synapses 22km dendrites, 220km axons!Mistakes activity for location
24But there are more fundamental problems These studies reify processes, thoughts and judgements – turning concepts from the social realm (efficiency, terrorism, psychopathy..) into localisable ‘things’ in the brain
25So here’s a thought experiment Let’s invent a cerebroscope
26The cerebroscopeDetects the activity of every neuron in my brain millisecond by millisecond
27The cerebroscopeSo it will interpret my brain activity as Steven reading this caption, giving this seminar?
29A more dynamic cerebroscope Not only reads the present state of my synapses but has plotted them millisecond by millisecond from their formation.So could you now ‘read off’ my mind from my brain?
30I still think the answer is no The experience may impose a unique pattern in my synapses etc, but can that pattern in turn be read as unique to the experience?The pattern may show I am talking, but will it show the content of my speech?
31Because But more fundamentally: There’s more to the brain than wiring diagrams and neurotransmittersModulators, field effects etcThe brain is in the bodyhormones, immune systemBut more fundamentally:brain and body are part of the biosocial world in which we are embedded
32Minds are not BrainsMinds are to brains like legs are to walking. We don’t say ‘my legs are walking’ but that we use our legs to walk Similarly, it is we who have minds and consciousness, and we use our brains to think
33Nor are our minds in our bodies (as St Augustine suggested) Maybe as philosopher Gilbert Ryle suggested we don’t have minds (noun); instead we mind (verb).Minding is a hybrid, not a reified brain process, though it requires the brain, but an ever-changing relationship between an individual and the physical social cultural and historical world;Consciousness is relational, the dynamic product of present and past brain and body activity, life history and social context, a process, not a reified ‘thing.’