X-Message-Number: 15550
References: <>
Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2001 14:25:50 +0000
From: "Joseph Kehoe" <>
Subject: brains

>> Researchers in Canada say that our ability to understand the thoughts of
>> other people - to some times "read between the lines" - appears to be
>> generated by a single region in the brain. And they say this discovery may
>> therefore hold part of the explanation for what makes us "human".

>>. Understanding what other people are thinking is one of the qualities that 
>> human beings apart from other primates.

>This sounds like typical neuroscience hype to me. I mean, just because I
>figure out that the cpu in my computer heats up when it's doing a lot of
>computing, doesn't mean I understand a thing about how it actually works.

But it can help in working that out. If I know what parts of a chip "heat up" 
when an arithmetic

operation is done then I have identified the ALU.  This will indeed help me 
reverse engineer how it

works.  If we can work out the individual components we can try understand each 
individually and

then put the result together.  This is much more tractable than trying to work 
it all out as some kind
of black box.It is a definite step forward for future research.

>Localizing something in the brain is supposed to mean we understand the
>associated higher thought processes? I would assert that even if we had a
>_complete wiring diagram_ of the brain (or _a_ brain since no two could be
>exactly alike) we still wouldn't know much about the mind.

A wiring diagram by itself would be no good but a wiring diagram with associated
annotations indicating that this

area does X and this area does Y and this area coordinates X and Y would be a 
very big step forward.

It is not the ultimate answer but it is another step towards the ultimate 

Every time we go forward like this it pushes back the "mysticism" associated 
with intelligence (and people).
 I believe this is good for humanity in general and cryonics in particular.

As for it being hype.  Logically it seems a definite step forward to me.  How 
big a step I don't really know!

I know little of neuroscience but the neuroscientists seem very taken with it. 
Hopefully their optimism is well founded. If not then don't blame me ;-)


QUOTE "The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of monkeys, and 
their potential relevance to human brain evolution

  which I speculate on in this essay   is the single most important "unreported"
  (or at least, unpublicized) story of the decade.

 I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: 
 they will provide a unifying framework and

help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious 
and inaccessible to experiments. "UNQUOTE

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