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The Custom-Made Brain

The Custom-Made Brain: Cerebral Plasticity, Regeneration, and Enhancement

Jean-Didier Vincent
Pierre-Marie Lledo
Translated by Laurence Garey
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Custom-Made Brain
    Book Description:

    Two leading neuroscientists introduce the concepts of "cerebral plasticity" and the "regenerating brain," describing what we know now about the processes through which the brain constantly reconstructs itself and the potential benefits this knowledge might have in addressing concerns for neurological, cognitive, and emotional health.

    The authors begin with a survey of the fundamental scientific developments that led to our current understanding of the regenerative mind, elucidating some of the breakthrough neurobiological studies that paved the way for our present understanding of the brain's plasticity and regenerative capabilities. They then discuss the application of these findings to such issues as depression, dyslexia, schizophrenia, and cognitive therapy, incorporating the latest technologies in neuroimaging, optogenetics, and nanotechnology. Their work shows the brain is anything but a static organ, ceasing to grow as human beings become adults. Rather, the brain is dynamic, evolving organically in relation to physical, cultural, historical, and affective stimuli, a plasticity that provides great hope to survivors of trauma and degenerative disorders.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53421-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Developmental & Cell Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    P-ML and J-DV
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
    (pp. 1-18)

    One ought really to say, “Man and his brain, what a marvel!” A man does not realize his brain is there, just as he does not feel a well-fitting suit: he forgets about it. Our head may feel heavy or painful, but, paradoxically, the brain, our organ of sensation, is without feeling, a soft mass painless even to the surgeon’s scalpel. It is carved from the same pattern for an entire species, but it expresses each individual’s self, in other words, his mind.

    For long the structure of these 1,500 grams (3.3 lbs.) of soft, pinkish-yellow matter escaped analysis. Bishop...

    (pp. 19-42)

    In speaking of “creating” when considering the origin of the shape of our brain, we risk being associated with the travesty of creationism. But no. The real creator with an effective presence on earth is the human brain: its genius is responsible for tools, from a simple stone or twig to articulate language, which have enabled it to instrumentalize the world and to dispose of it at will. But instead of “origin,” we prefer “beginning” in the sense of “In the beginning was the word” or Goethe’s “In the beginning was action.” Of course, the rationalists’ scientific rigor would object...

    (pp. 43-60)

    It is paradoxical that this organ, which makes us what we are, should have remained unrecognized for so long. Indeed, we had to wait until the eighteenth century to discover its external and internal structure, thanks to a multitude of cadavers dissected in anatomical amphitheaters and to advances in microscopy. As to the study of its function, that depended on ridding physiology of religious prejudice, the advent of electricity, and the study of pathological anatomy.

    The study of key stages in embryonic development, which we discussed in chapter 2, demonstrates that the vertebrate nervous system is a mosaic where phylogenetically...

    (pp. 61-82)

    The conservation of life on earth is just as exacting as that of energy: both are continually degrading, and all living organisms are destined to sink inevitably into oblivion. Life is only possible thanks to the repair, restoration, and reconstruction of degraded organs, until the workshop closes at death. Many invertebrates are able to regenerate a missing limb or organ, including their nervous system. The so-called higher species, especially man, seem to have lost this remarkable potential. On the other hand, they have available numerous means of recuperation to allow certain handicaps to be overcome, at least partially. If this...

    (pp. 83-98)

    As we have seen, a new head is the hallmark of vertebrates. We have every reason to be proud of it and to want to protect it, by a hat against sunstroke, or by horns or tusks against adversaries who might attack it. Indeed, the head is the first thing to be attacked in combat, a sad privilege shared with the heart, also indispensable for life.

    Man is an inquisitive animal, and we can easily conceive that since his origins he has sought to know what was in that skull of his, which rang hollow and broke when you hit...

    (pp. 99-138)

    Can we imagine a robot that can read our thoughts and carry out unpleasant daily tasks at our convenience? This subjugation of a robot by our thoughts would constitute a victory of man over machine.¹ Or is it only fantasy, a derisory product of science fiction? No, it is a dream that could become reality, given that scientists can record brain activity accompanying the planning and execution of a voluntary movement and replay the tune to a machine to execute the task. So, after succeeding in transforming matter into energy, then energy into work or information, humanity is embarking on...

    (pp. 139-140)

    To feel good is an ideal offered by one’s brain, as it conducts our thoughts and actions according to the body’s rhythm in response to the solicitations of the world. True happiness is restrained and far from soul-destroying excesses. A custom-made brain is one made to the measure of man. It is the heritage of all, to be shared by all; it is unique yet societal, unable to exist without the presence of others.

    Neuroscience brings a host of data bearing witness to the changeable and proteiform character of our brain, its dynamism and its unstable equilibrium. Far from being...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 141-170)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 171-180)