Tales from Both Sides

Mentioned last month I was planning to read some Michael Gazzaniga, but struggling to decide where to start. Rather than his latest, I obtained second-hand two earlier works:

2015 – “Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience”

2011 – “Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain”

I actually started the latter first, imagining the “who” was which side of the brain (a la Iain McGilchrist) but it fact its more generally about the I of me and my free-will. I didn’t immediately get the feeling he had much new to say from the philosophical side on the mind-brain problem, so I put it down and picked-up the other. (Though I did get the impression he sees free-will as real and is at least a compatibilist when it comes to scientific determinism.)

I’m well into Tales from Both Sides, practically half-way and it is an excellent read, so much so that, whatever, I will return to his earlier work on free-will.

As expected, as an autobiography, Tales is very good on the politics of science as well as the particular content of split-brain and  naturally asymmetric brain defects and lesions.

The latter is well documented as supporting the one-brain / two-minds short-hand, and the relationship between these, elaborated on most recently by McGilchrist.

Also especially interesting is the “cueing” – how not only the one-half of the brain passes cues to the other-half, but how subtle somatic and propriocentric movements, feelings and senses contribute to that cueing. Without saying so in so many words, so far, there is also the strong sense of “gaming” going on as different physical parts contribute to the integrated mind as parts of mind work out their response strategies to imperfect inputs. With the perspective of hindsight – like all good science – none of this looks in the least surprising – already common sense. But of course the book is about the journey building on earlier misconceptions about the linearity of mechanisms. (Getting the feeling cueing may be a major part of the second half of the book.)

Damasio is an erstwhile collaborator that gets mentioned – and he was my main previous source of the somatic & propriocentric content. Dennett too is mentioned as a long-standing friend from earlier encounters. Again, questions of where each cross-reference the other become interesting. Sperry is mentioned by everyone of course, and took the credit for the Nobel prize from his team, including Gazzaniga. As I say, the politics is as interesting as the content when it comes to science.

Reading on.

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