Crumb Trail
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Saturday, September 20, 2003

Neil Greenberg reviews The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind by Elkhonon Goldberg.

I hope I'm not the only one who finds a connection between the ideas of evolutionary aesthetics discussed in the previous post and the practice of science as described in this review.

"The creative scientist (like the artist) must walk a narrow ridge. On one side there is the need to accommodate the traditions of the profession in order to survive as a professional, and on the other, there is the need to be free of such social constraints in order to make creative contributions and prosper as a professional (4). William Wordsworth understood: “Never forget,” he wrote, “. . . that every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished”(5).

Going beyond the obvious. In the spirit of Wordsworth, Goldberg’s book seeks to create an appreciation for his insight. As often the case, data has emerged that makes his task easier. He begins by seeking to reframe the perennial (and parochial) either-or quarrel about modularity of mind. He notes that while a modularity persists in many ancient parts of the brain, more recently evolved structures -those that collate and integrate the information provided by these modules- possess a density of intrinsic connections that creates a functional “gradiental” continuum. These more recently evolved structures are the frontal lobes, the “organ of civilization” according to some of the founding fathers of neuropsychology such as Ward Halstead (6) and the author’s mentor, the great A. R. Luria. The book arrives at a time which for many of us is what teachers sometimes call “the teachable moment.” Many of us are ready for Goldberg’s ideas."

posted by back40 | 9/20/2003 04:59:00 PM


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