Machinery of the “Brain”

I have been reading this book called Tell-a-tale Brain from V. S. Ramachandran. I must say that his books are just as pleasing to read as it is to listening to his talks. The book brings together the author’s findings from several years of research about the human brain. With interesting tales, research findings and personal opinions – VSR takes the reader on a nice tour of the human brain. I bought the book after listening to his talks on TED. I read the book from cover to cover as quickly as possible when I read it for the first time. The idea was to get a really quick gist of it. I am reading over it in more detail for the second time around now and I am sure I will read it again and again in the years to come. With every read, the mystery of the brain deepens and it is quite thrilling to know about one’s own brain.

Just yesterday I was reading the second chapter “Seeing and Knowing”. VSR talks about how it is a misconception to think of vision as re-projection of images, captured by the retina, on to an internal mental screen for the brain to then interpret what was seen. He opines, based on research and exhaustive study, that once the images captured by the retina of our eyes gets converted to “nerve” impulses and pushed to the brain – they are no longer treated as images. This means that the brain doesnt do as much image processing as it does “symbols” processing. The brain works on the symbols and significances captured in the images captured by the eyes. The brain is more concerned about what the image means, than the image itself. He also goes on to say that the brain is continuously guessing an interpretation of what is being seen by the eyes and finally picks up one of the guesses, that is most close to the model of reality that it has internally created. In effect, what we “perceive” is mostly a “guess” of what’s out there.

Philosophers can take it on from here and come up with a whole course on reality and perception :-).