BS 171 Matthew Cobb, author of "The Idea of the Brain"


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This episode of Brain Science is an interview with neuroscientist Matthew Cobb author of "The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience."

Cobb approaches the history of neuroscience from a different perspective than previous writers. He writes from the perspective of a working scientist with a deep interest in the history of ideas and the interaction between science and culture. This approach makes for a fascinating discussion.

Through out history assumptions about the brain have been influenced by both culture and contemporary science. For example, before the discovery of electricity it was impossible to image that the brain uses both chemical and electrical signals to communicate. Similarly, our current understanding is heavily influenced by the computer metaphor, which actually misses much about how real brains function.

Another aspect of our discussion involves several ongoing debates with neuroscience such as the importance of localization versus network properties. We also touch on the tendency toward neuromythology, which is the tendency to think that understanding the brain is the only tool for understanding what it means to be human. Dr. Cobb reminds of the importance of being aware of the work in a wide varieties of fields include science and the humanities.

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