Understanding 'How the Mind Makes Meaning'

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

MRI machine at the Role 3 Medical Facility at Joint Operating Base, Bastion, Afghanistan (U.S. Navy)

Today, The Takeaway spends the hour looking at the science of the mind, and how understanding the brain gives us new insights into how we understand ourselves.

Cognitive science professor Benjamin Bergen explains that language particularly illuminates how researchers' understanding of the brain has evolved over time. Scientists once believed that parts of the brain were dedicated to one specific purpose, such as meaning. Today, Bergen says, thanks to brain scanners and other new technology, scientists realize that, for every function, "there's actually much more of the brain involved than just a small, localized region."

Bergen, the author of "Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning," says that in brain scans, when subjects are asked to think of a shortstop throwing a ball to first base, researchers can actually see how the imagination uses several different regions of the brain. "Parts of the vision system in the brain light up," he says, "and parts of the motor system might light up if we're thinking about what it would be like to be that shortstop, to perform that action."

While computer technology continues to make strides in recognizing and processing language, Bergen says that programs like the iPhone's Siri have a way to go. 

"The best constructed, the smartest, the statistically most powerful computation tools, still fail," he says. "The difference between Siri and you is that you have a body, and that you've had experiences in that body, and Siri doesn't and hasn't."


Benjamin Bergen

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [1]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

My brain hurts trying to find the right words to this segment...So, I will give you the wrong words, and probably the opposite of what I write holds the truth...
Many people are trying to lose themselves in the digital age so that they don't have to deal with "the body."
Sickness and pain brings us back to being human,the promise of pleasure keeps us in the game, otherwise, I bet most humans would rather forget about their bodies...(maybe that just happens when the body starts deteriorating during middle age.)

Computers might not give us exactly what we want. They might not have the scanning technology that our bodies have, but, we might be willing to sacrifice what the body can do, if sickness and pain are eliminated.

A large chunk of humans would rather not have that great "scanner" and would be willing to give up perception and action in order to eliminate pain...The only thing that has not stopped people from connecting the brain and the body is pleasure. If you could give people pleasure in the brain, they would probably be willing to sacrifice their body.

Dec. 26 2012 01:38 PM

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