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How does the brain function?

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    • #66502
      Ernest Izard

      The article at the above url effectively destroys (with overkill, I say) that the brain is like a computer. A lot of ink is wasted because the author is so caught up in the details of exactly how a computer works that he forgets that any and every metaphor is only an approximation of varying degrees of similarity or comparisons. The weakness in the article is that he appears to knows so little about the brain itself that he provides little light on how the brain functions. So he kills the metaphor with a sledge hammer and we still have a brain working and functioning. We have a brain that remembers and changes in brain structure are perceivable in a few days to a week from different stimuli. No, I do not have an icore 7 chip from Intel between my ears. I do have memory densely packed in the cells between my ears and throughout my body anchored in the skin. Saying there is no place in the brain where you can find Beethoven’s 5th Symphony intact in one place is akin to the thinking of the guy who killed the golden goose so he could get all the eggs at one time. The brain processes incoming sensory perceptions at an incredible rate and is capable of retrieving (“remembering”) them at will, especially if emotionally dipped in a bath of neurotransmitters. The brain processes and computers process information. The word “process” cannot be hijacked by the IT industry as the only was processing can take place. More later.

    • #79779
      Lisa Baker

      Thank you Ernest for your posting. Like many people I have long heard the analogy that our brain is like a computer. While the article was filled with more detail than I needed, I think the description of the mechanisms of computing did serve as a nice contrast for the actual working of our brain. What I found most interesting was the history of how people have described the workings of the human brain throughout the ages. People have long compared our brain with the most advanced technology of the day. With this historical context, we can see why people would naturally compare the human brain to a computer.
      The author of the article details how this predominate, but faulty thought pervades our understanding of the working of our mind. Because this idea of our brain is so ubiquitous, it may be impairing our ability to better understand the mechanism of thought and learning. Only by recognizing this bias of understanding can we investigate new ideas.
      The article does spend more time than necessary reiterating how brains not processing devices. No, there is no designated area for storage in the brain. After all, computers are based on circuits and electricity where as our brains use chemicals. No, because the human brain and consciousness is not a very complicated computer program, we probably will not see downloads of ourselves into computers.
      What I did enjoy about this article is the emphasis of seeing our brain as a tool that allows us to change to stimuli. We, taking our brains along for the ride, change to stimuli. New neuropathways are created based on this. Repetition strengthens these pathways. Every experience changes our brain. While this is a truly daunting idea for researchers, as a teacher it makes me much more sensitive to creating meaningful experiences for my students.

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