Thursday, December 17, 2015

Quote Of The Day: The "Halle Berry Neuron" Helps Show The Mind Is Caused By The Brain

iconFrom The Myth of An Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death, pp 55-56:

The physical structures of the brain are causally responsible for consciousness and its capabilities. A neuroscientist examining the scans of a stroke victim's brain can now predict, sometimes with remarkable accuracy, exactly what sorts of cognitive, conceptual, emotional, or psychological problems that the patient will experience as a result of his or her brain damage. The connection is too direct, too pervasive, too immediate, and too strong to be ignored. The physical foundation of mental functions shows that the alleged separation of the mind from brain posited by the dualistic survival hypothesis (hereafter simply "the survival hypothesis") will not occur. If a region of the brain is damaged or removed, the correlated mental capacity goes, memory is lost, emotional affects are abbreviated, conceptual abilities disappear, or the cognitive capacity is lost.
       In a remarkable study published in 2005, neuroscientists reported the discovery of what they called the "Halle Berry neuron." In order to isolate the location of the electrical chaos that induced their epilepsy, patients' brains were implanted with electrodes. Then each patient was shown a variety of pictures while the activity of neurons in the vicinity of the probes was recorded. In several instances, a particular neuron could be singled out whose activity spiked in response to specific images, such as those of Halle Berry, Bill Clinton, or the Eiffel tower. One neuron fired when the subject looked at a picture of Halle Berry in an evening gown, in a catwoman suit, and as a cartoon, and even when the words "Halle Berry" were displayed, suggesting that the neuron played an integral role in a large web or neurons responsible for a variety of abstract and high-level representations of Halle Berry, rather than some simpler function such as edge discrimination. The neuron did not respond comparably to the hundreds of other images used in the study (Quiroga et al., 2005). Contrary to what we would expect on the survival hypothesis, every year we discover more brain functions responsible for specific mental functions; and in none of the carefully investigated cases have we been able to find mental functions that appears to be autonomous from the brain.

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