What Is Neuroscience?

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Melvyn Bragg and guests examine the relationship between the mind and the brain as they discuss recent developments in Neuroscience. In the mid-19th century a doctor had a patient who had suffered a stroke. The patient was unable to speak save for one word. The word was ‘Tan’ which became his name. When Tan died, the doctor discovered damage to the left side of his brain and concluded that the ability to speak was housed there. This is how neuroscience used to work – by examining the dead or investigating the damaged – but now things have changed. Imaging machines and other technologies enable us to see the active brain in everyday life, to observe the activation of its cells and the mass firing of its neuron batteries. Our extraordinary new knowledge of how the brain works has challenged concepts of free will and consciousness and opened up new ways of understanding the brain. Yet these new ideas seem to conform to some old ideas such as Freudian Psychoanalysis. But what picture of the brain has emerged, how has our understanding of it changed and what are the implications for understanding that most mysterious and significant of all phenomena – the human mind?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Neuroscience

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Short Article of the Day

[Neuroscience] is the study of the nervous system and, most notably, the brain. There are several areas of interest: neurobiology looks at the chemistry of cells and their interactions; cognitive neuroscience looks at how the brain supports psychological processes; and computational neuroscience aims to create computer models of the brain to test theories. Questions could include anything from why certain proteins appear in neurons to how the brain supports consciousness...

Continue reading Vaughan Bell's article: A brief guide to neuroscience

Further Reading

Over the past three decades, philosophy of science has grown increasingly “local.” Concerns have switched from general features of scientific practice to concepts, issues, and puzzles specific to particular disciplines. Philosophy of neuroscience is a natural result. This emerging area was also spurred by remarkable recent growth in the neurosciences. Cognitive and computational neuroscience continues to encroach upon issues traditionally addressed within the humanities, including the nature of consciousness, action, knowledge, and normativity. Empirical discoveries about brain structure and function suggest ways that “naturalistic” programs might develop in detail, beyond the abstract philosophical considerations in their favor...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on The Philosophy of Neuroscience by Bickle, Mandik & Landreth

Bonus Webcomic

Scientific Mind Reading - Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

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