Monday, May 07, 2007

Brain Lessons

Steven Pinker, Oliver Sacks, and others on how learning about their brains changed the way they live. I particularly like the paragraph by Alison Gopnik, author of the critique of the mirror neuron myth that I have posted and co-author of The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn.
Consciousness, attention, and brain plasticity all seem to be linked. And attention and plasticity are much more widely distributed in young animals—including human babies—than older ones. For grown-ups, consciousness is like a spotlight; for babies it's like a lantern. I have always loved the childlike moments, however brief, when our minds seem to open to the entire world around us—the experience celebrated by Romantic poets and Zen sages alike. The neuroscience makes me think that these moments aren't just a passing thrill. Cultivating this childlike "lantern consciousness," this broad focus, might help make us almost as good as babies at changing our brains.

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