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Economist Survey: The Brain

December 24th, 2006 · No Comments

The Economist writes:

Modern neuroscience has taken many directions, and this survey will not attempt to look at all of them. Instead, it will concentrate on four areas that may shed light on individual identity: the study of the emotions; the nature of memory; the ways that brains interact with each other; and the vexed question of what, exactly, consciouness is.

Such science is very much work in progress. Indeed, it is science of a type that would have been familiar to Broca and his contemporaries, for in many cases the researchers have only the haziest idea of where they are going. In the 19th century, when scientists were feeling their way towards big concepts such as the laws of thermodynamics, electromagnetics and the periodic table without really knowing what they were looking for, that was normal. These days there seem to be fewer new big concepts around, and experiments are often conducted in the expectation of particular results. But neuroscience is one area where big concepts certainly remain to be discovered. And when they are, they are likely to upend humanity’s understanding of itself.

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