Part 5 – BRAIN AND VISION

In this course, some of the most famous neurophysiologists in Western science grapple with the fundamental and provocatively interesting question: can the brain understand the brain? In their attempt to answer, they give us a more complete picture of the function and evolutionary potential of the brain, always based on the scientific data so far, and at the same time formulate a series of hypotheses that enrich the research.

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Initial course Fees: 340 €.

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Part 5 – BRAIN AND VISION

Duration: 1 Month

Course fees: 34 €

MODULE 5:

  • BRAIN AND VISION D. Huedel, T. Wiesel: Central mechanisms of vision

PREFACE

1979, the American multidisciplinary (which seems to me more accurate than “popular science”) journal Scientic American devoted almost its entire September issue to describing the most signicant advances in the study of the structure and operation of the brain. The authors were scientists who were directly involved in these achievements and who made a signicant contribution to the development of brain science. Such names as D. Hubel, T. Wiesel, E. Kandel, E. Evarts, W. Nauta and others are well known to specialists all over the world. Without these names it is difcult to imagine modern neurophysiology.

In this case, they appeared before the reader as fascinating storytellers, very cautious in evaluating the results obtained, but clearly aware of how incomplete and contradictory our real knowledge of the activity of the brain is, the most complex and mysterious creation of Nature. First-hand information available to a wide range of readers always remains the ideal of popularization of any field of knowledge. In the course before us, this condition is observed to the maximum.

The progress of brain science is undeniable and obvious. As D. Hubel rightly remarked, a neurophysiologist of the 1950s would have been amazed if he had been told how much new things would become known to us thirty years later. The continuous accumulation of information about biologically active substances-transmitters and modulators of nervous excitation is somewhat reminiscent of the situation in the field of nuclear physics, where the family of discovered elementary particles increases every year. The gradually becoming clearer signicance of disturbances in the chemistry of the brain in the genesis of mental illness radically changes the face of descriptive psychiatry. The discovery of the functional specialization of the two hemispheres had a truly revolutionary impact on the ideas about the physiological foundations of the human psyche-consciousness and thinking. These and other advances in neurophysiology are covered in detail in this publication.

At the same time, the materials contained in it by no means exhaust what has been achieved by modern science. For example, in the articles of American colleagues there are absolutely no results obtained by Soviet brain researchers. This applies primarily to such sections as the study of the fundamental laws of the physiology of the nerve cell (P. G. Kostyuk, A. I. Shapovalov), the physiology of vision (A. L. Byzov, V. D. Glezer, I. A. Shevelev) and hearing (G. V. Gershuni), neurophysiological mechanisms of movement organization (V. S. Gurnkel, G. N. Orlovsky, M. L. Shik). The contribution of Soviet researchers to the analysis of cellular mechanisms of learning formation of conditioned reflexes is very signicant (N.N. Vasilevsky, L.L. Voronin, U. G. Gasanov, A. B. Kogan, M. N. Livanov, M. Ya. Rabinovich , V. S. Rusinov, E. N. Sokolov, V. B. Shvyrkov, G. I. Shulgina, M. M. Khananashvili and many others). The theoretical generalizations of P.K. Anokhin, E.A. Asratyan, I. S. Beritashvili, N. A. Bernshtein, L. A. Orbeli and other domestic scientists.

From the list of topics covered by the compilers, information is excluded regarding the structure and functions of those brain structures that are directly involved in the process of actualizing the most important needs of the body – hunger, thirst, sexual desire, in the genesis of emotional reactions – rage, fear, pleasure, etc. As a result it becomes incomprehensible how such carefully studied sensory systems (vision, hearing, etc.) are connected with no less deeply analyzed mechanisms of movement organization. In other words, where are the brain structures located, which decide the question of what influences of the external environment and in what way should a living organism respond?

This is where the problem of the “homunculus” arises, which F. Crick writes about in his final article. With rare insight and sharpness, one of the discoverers of the genetic code puts this question before the mind of the natural scientist. How often do different authors, regardless of whether they operate with the concept of “information”, “neuropsychic code” or “subjective image”, forget about the existence of the problem of “the recipient of information looking at the screen of a small TV in the brain”, or replace the homunculus with such psychological concept, as “personality”.

F. Crick does not offer his own solution to the problem, but quite rightly demands to part once and for all with the idea of a homunculus in any of its variants, since the rejection of the false path in itself represents a considerable success of the searching thought. Unlike all other objects of natural science, the study of the human brain is burdened with the possibility of introspection, i.e. opportunity to see from within. The obviousness and visibility of ideas about one’s own inner world make it dificult to comprehend the laws of brain activity to an incomparably greater extent than the visibility of the movement of the Sun around the Earth has distorted the picture of the solar system for centuries. Hence the question that was raised at the very beginning arises: can the brain understand the brain, can the brain understand the mind?

The best answer to this question are the works published in this issue, the real achievements of modern science. Perhaps one of the important advantages of these articles lies not only in informing the reader about what has already been known, but also in clarifying the formulation of unresolved problems, in determining the strategic tasks of further research.

Team of Scientists

  • Hubel,
  • Stevens,
  • Ε. Kandel,
  • Hayta
  • Feirtag
  • Cowan
  • Iversen
  • Huedel
  • Wiesel
  • Ε. Ewarts
  • Geschwind
  • Κitty
  • F. Crick

In this course, some of the most famous neurophysiologists in Western science grapple with the fundamental and provocatively interesting question: can the brain understand the brain? In their attempt to answer, they give us a more complete picture of the function and evolutionary potential of the brain, always based on the scientific data so far, and at the same time formulate a series of hypotheses that enrich the research.

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Part 5 - BRAIN AND VISION

1
BRAIN AND VISION, D. Huedel, T. Wiesel: Central mechanisms of vision
2
Part 5 – BRAIN AND VISION
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