Saturday, July 13, 2013
Are Minds in Brains?
Take a look at this wild article (here). It discusses a recent macabre experiment that involves worm head decapitations. Worms are able to regenerate their heads, so this is not as dire as what happened to Marie Antoinette, but still it's no picnic I would think. Nonetheless, something really weird happened. When the head and brain grew back it grew back with all its former memories intact. Yes, cutting off the worm brain did NOT eliminate its prior knowledge. Not surprisingly, there are more guesses about how this might be the case than there are serious theories. However, one seems quite interesting (at least to me) given prior (almost groundless, but not quite groundless) speculation about where computing happens in the brain (see here and here). The idea gets mooted that the information might be stored "in cells that are outside the brain." The exciting way of reading this is that memories are actually stored in cells/neurons rather than as in weighted networks of cells. I am sure that I am over-reading this, but it does seem interesting that cutting off something's brain seems to leave memories intact especially if memories are stored not in neurons but in the weighted connections between neurons. Of course, one weird fact does not a revolution make, but I think that this sort of thing serves to remind us how little we know about how mental phenomena are incarnated. Brains? Nervous Systems? Recall the ancients put in a plug for hearts and livers! Stay tuned.