Mind Hacks

Over at Mind Hacks, Vaughan has generously allowed me to answer a few of his excellent questions. Check it out.

Q: You seem to mostly focus on past artists but jokingly mentioned in a recent interview that maybe your next book will be called 'Kanye West was a neuroscientist'. Are there contemporary artists that you value as potentially inspiring progress in the brain sciences?

A: There are some obvious candidates, like Richard Powers and Ian McEwan, who have written wonderful novels about modern neuroscience. (See, for example, Galatea 2.2 or Saturday or The Echo Maker.) But I don't think it's necessary to write on a scientific theme in order to contribute to science. The reason we are still reading Homer and Shakespeare and Joyce is that the art feels true. The work endures because it seems to capture something essential about human nature.

The question for science is what that is. Why is Hamlet such a potent character? Why do we stare at Jackson Pollack paintings? Why are Kanye West's samples so captivating to the acoustic cortex? Artists are constantly being forced to reverse-engineer the brain. By reverse-engineering the art - by trying to understand why, exactly, it resonates with us - we can learn about the mind.

In other news, Seed has put my profile of Oliver Sacks online.

More like this

I discuss the neuroscientific sensitivities of Saturday, Ian McEwan's 2004 novel, in my forthcoming book, so I was happy to read this paragraph in Jonathan Lethem's review of McEwan's latest novel. Lethem is wondering why McEwan, despite his dabbles in modernist structure (Saturday is modeled on…
The image on the right is a supercomputer simulation of the microcircuitry found within a column from the neocortex of the rat brain. The simulation is a tour de force of computational neuroscience: a single column is a highly complex structure, containing approximately 10,000 neurons and 30…
Raymond Tallis recently launched a broadside against the nascent field of neuroaesthetics, especially as applied to literature: A generation of academic literary critics has now arisen who invoke "neuroscience" to assist them in their work of explication, interpretation and appreciation. Norman…
Faster computers come out all the time, but it's what we do with a CPU that determines its true usefulness. On Good Math, Bad Math, Mark Chu-Carroll introduces us to Google's new programming language, Go. Noting the minimalist design of the language, Chu-Carroll writes "if you want a C-like…

Perhaps your source of information about the brain explains why you used a misnomer as the title of your blog.

By truth machine (not verified) on 06 Nov 2007 #permalink