Tuesday, August 31, 2010

manipulating the brain

I have a lot of sympathy for this brain: my own is being pulled and tugged into shape right now, since I'm facing the first class of the semester tomorrow. This is a course on "Memory" (phew: pause whilst a very strong sample of eau-de-skunk is released under my window), something that I really love teaching - and that, I confess, is intended to get me writing/finishing a chapter of "Flash!" during the next couple of months, too - the chapter on "photographic memory," which after taking a quick tour through late C19th examples of flashes of memory - some of them involving actual flashlight exposures and cameras - settles down into flash memory cards and flashbulb memories. And these last things are fascinating - real examples of how we think that we can remember something in startling detail, and then we find that we're actually wrong - all the time we remember something that we think was co-terminous with hearing of JFK's assassination, or 9/11, but actually we can falsify this memory quite significantly, and then embed it in our practice of recollection through always, indeed, remembering what's false. I don't imagine that we'll do a whole lot about the functioning of the brain, and the developing studies of how it actually makes and preserves memories (I'm quite happy to veer off there, but ostensibly it's a literature course) - but I'm always fascinated by its physiological workings.

This particular brain? One of the rather weird models outside the UMDNJ / Robert Wood Johnson hospital in downtown New Brunswick - from the car, as I was stuck in an interminable hot traffic jam there.

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