Low hills and enfolded valleys

Here’s another great quote about the brain, from Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday:

He’s looking down at a portion of [the] brain…with its low hills and enfolded valleys of the sulci, each with a name and imputed function…Just to the left of the midline, running laterally away out of sight under the bone, is the motor strip. So easy to damage, with such terrible, lifelong consequences. How much time he has spent making routes to avoid these areas, like bad neighbourhoods in an American city…For all the recent advances, it’s still not known how this well-protected one kilogram or so of cells actually encodes information, how it holds experiences, memories, dreams and intentions. He doesn’t doubt that in years to come, the coding mechanism will be known…But even when it has, the wonder will remain, that mere wet stuff can make this bright inward cinema of thought, of sight and sound and touch bound into a vivid illlusion of an instantaneous present, with a self, another brightly wrought illusion, hovering like a ghost at its centre. Could it ever be explained, how matter becomes conscious?


2 thoughts on “Low hills and enfolded valleys

  1. I’ve recently seen Enduring Love (it is well adapted I think) and I’m looking forward to reading this. It is good to know that the best literates of our times have interest in the brain to construct their narrative plots

  2. I’ve become incredibly skeptical to some of these ideas.
    I commonly translate some of the latest “discoveries” in brain science to my family and it ends up always like “this may be doing this, which is associated with this”…
    the problem here is relating all of this to behavior. Zimmer’s book on ecoli behavior is a treat, so with some of the latest discoveries I really dont give a damn about the associated behaviors because of the evidence.

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