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Ron Burnett

President and Vice-Chancellor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design


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Can a map of the Brain really explain the complexities of consciousness?

We have been making extraordinary advances in mapping the brain and at the same time drawing conclusions about consciousness, the ways in which we think and consequently, the ways in which we act as humans.
I consider this approach to be simplistic and reductive. I am worried that we are building "behavioural maps" that cannot account for the complexity of human thought and action. Most of all, these maps cannot account for the unconscious, that part of our brains that cannot be explained by any reference to its parts.


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  • Nov 15 2011: It's worth considering Bradley Voytek's point: we've known the layout of the C. elegans worm in high detail for three decades now, and yet we haven't been able to use that information to predict their behaviors or understand their inner experiences. The brain is just too ridiculously complex to explain with a map of any kind, although compared to C. elegans we do have the advantage of inhabiting and being able to report on our brains.

    Philosophers call the consciousness/mind-from-body problem "the Hard Problem" for a reason!
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      Nov 15 2011: Jose....totally agree. A close friend of mine is involved in research on worms for the NIH and he had hoped some thirty years ago that he would discover some answers to his questions about the brain. He is still hoping. Of course, we have to keep working on these issues and the research is getting better, we just have to be careful with the claims that everyone is making about the results.

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