Your Brain is Not the Boss: Untrustworthy, Storytelling Neurons

March 8, 2008

. . . from a brain linked to what is “out there” by a few million fragile sensory nerve fibers, [these are] our only information channels, our lifelines to reality. They provide what is essential for life itself: an afferent excitation that maintains the conscious state, the awareness of self. Sensations are set by the encoding functions of sensory nerve endings, and by the integrating neural mechanics of the central nervous system. Afferent nerve fibers are not high-fidelity recorders, for they accentuate certain stimulus features, neglect others. The central neuron is a story-teller with regard to the nerve fibers, and it is never completely trustworthy, allowing distortions of quality and measure. . . sensation is an abstraction, not a replication of the real world.

–Vernon Mountcastle, as quoted in Eric R. Kandel’s, In Search of Memory


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