In “The Mind’s Biology,” Amy Ellis Nutt reports that some doctors are reaching past the symptoms of mental illness to identify and fix the brain circuits underlie the problems. One of those doctors is Hasan Asif. “Asif says that a person’s mental makeup is a kind of hierarchy, with personality on top, which is created by brain states that arise from circuits firing in a certain pattern below. With psychotherapy, you tweak the brain from the top down, dealing first with a patient’s personality and temperament. But with neurofeedback, combined with qEEG, he said, he tweaks his patients from the bottom up, identifying the brain areas involved and then retraining those circuits to fire differently, resulting in changed moods or mental outlooks.”
In “How Phantom Limbs Explain Consciousness,” Michael Graziano says that “the brain’s model of the body can tell us a lot about its model of attention.” Just as the brain generates a schema of the body, it generates a scheme of attention. “You know, the feely thing inside me. Consciousness.”
Neuroscientist Joe Herbert asks why we can’t unite neuroscience and psychiatry. “Most of our organs can be treated as repairable machines. Why can’t we treat mental illness by simply fixing the brain?”
Stan Persky’s book review of Barry Dainton’s Self: Philosophy in Transit is an extended, entertaining, and instructive grand tour of many ideas about the self, that remarkable ability humans have “to sleepily glance at the bathroom mirror in the morning, and not only recognize ourselves, but also reflectively note, ‘Hmm, I don’t like myself very much these days. I wonder what I can do to change who and/or what I am.’” Thought experiments like the “ultimate simulation simulation machine” and “teleportation” make an appearance along the way.
Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? First-rate review of competing ideas about what makes human beings more than complex robots. “It would be poetic – albeit deeply frustrating – were it ultimately to prove that the one thing the human mind is incapable of comprehending is itself. An answer must be out there somewhere. And finding it matters: indeed, one could argue that nothing else could ever matter more – since anything at all that matters, in life, only does so as a consequence of its impact on conscious brains. Yet there’s no reason to assume that our brains will be adequate vessels for the voyage towards that answer. Nor that, were we to stumble on a solution to the Hard Problem, on some distant shore where neuroscience meets philosophy, we would even recognise that we’d found it.” Highly recommended. Clear, thorough.
Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Paul and Patricia Churchland’s “marriage devoted to the mind-body problem.” “One afternoon recently, Paul says, he was home making dinner when Pat burst in the door, having come straight from a frustrating faculty meeting. ‘She said, “Paul, don’t speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren’t for my endogenous opiates I’d have driven the car into a tree on the way home. My dopamine levels need lifting. Pour me a Chardonnay, and I’ll be down in a minute.” ’ ”
Anorexia visible with brain scans and womb hormones ‘lead to anorexia’. These two articles are of interest with respect to the mind-body problem and the question of how much is up to you. Are the brains of persons with eating disorders different because they have eating disorders, or do they have eating disorders because their brains are different? Or is this a confused question because there is only the brain? And is your brain programmed in the womb?
… and it isn’t even that hard. It won’t be the kind of experience you might have seen in sci-fi movies, but it can help you think more about the philosophical question of self-identity.
“Are we governed by unconscious processes? Neuroscience believes so – but isn’t the human condition more complicated than that?” David Eagleman and Raymond Tallis offer different views.