Brain Salad Surgery

Pardon the title of this posting but it’s the best I can do.

Jill Bolt Taylor with Stained Glass Artwork

A mini-interview in the New Scientist (April 19-25) caught my eye. Jill Bolte Taylor’s story gives credence to the network model of cognitive architecture that postulates that cognitive representations consist of widely distributed networks of cortical neurons. Cognitive functions, namely perception, attention, memory, language, and intelligence, consist of neural transactions within and between these networks. Jill in her own words:

So, I look at us as a collection of neurocircuitry of thoughts and emotions and physiological responses. When you see the brain as the kind of computer network that it is, it becomes easier to manipulate.

 Jill, you see, had her left hemisphere traumatised, and shifted herself into her right hemisphere – a “cognitive choice” as she puts it. The interviewer make the point that Jill’s claim resembles the claim made by those who meditate. Jill:

There are people who are comfortable witnessing their thoughts, while there are others who think they are their thoughts. Learning to observe our neural circuitry and not engage with it is a skill we all can learn. 

 Yes, indeed. Secular Buddhist training – “empty mind” – dispenses with the homunculus that Cartesianism postulates. For more on Jill, see her website.