Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How the brain invents the mind

How do you differentiate the brain and the mind? Watch this great MIT video. First, Susan Hockfield (MIT President) starts this presentation by speaking about the economy and sustainable energy. Then professor Rebecca Saxe outlines her research investigating the neural basis for a Theory of Mind -- how the human mind seems geared to “glean what others are thinking and feeling.”
From her work with children and adults, Saxe has determined that there’s a very specific region of the brain -- the right temporal-parietal junction -- dedicated to thinking about how others think. This area lights up in the fMRI scanner when people read stories involving another person’s beliefs and moral judgments, but not when they digest other kinds of written material. The RTPJ develops this special function slowly (young children don’t have it), and Saxe has discovered that she can interfere with this region’s activities, altering her subjects’ sense of what constitutes morally permissible behavior. She’s exploring whether these distinct neural networks develop differently in children with autism, with the hope of finding therapies that might someday help treat the disorder.

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