In March 2014, Nancy Kanwisher made a TED talk about the neural portrait of the human mind (Kanwisher, 2014). In her speech, she discussed the complexity and beauty of the brain. Through the set of experiments and successful findings, she discovered one spot in the right bottom hemisphere of the brain allegedly responsible for face distinction. To prove this assumption, Kanwisher and a group of neuroscientists conducted a research. Its aim was to find out whether the brain responded to such stimulus as human faces, and what kind of response it provided.
While researching, the scientists proved that there was a spot in the brain, which reacted to faces visualization. What is more, there were also spots responsible for seeing colors, hearing a language, complex thinking, listening to the music, and dealing with other visual and auditory samples (Kanwisher, 2014). Kanwisher also demonstrated a video example of the experiment conducted on a man with epilepsy. The electrodes were adjusted to the face-distinction spot, and the man was given a 4 mA current, under the influence of which the neurologist’s face metamorphosed in his eyes (Kanwisher, 2014).
Nowadays, the neuroscientific research is progressing steadily. The aim of the scientists is to find out how each of the brain processes works, how the neurons and selected areas respond to different objects, how they are connected and how other intriguing brain-relevant mechanisms function. From this perspective, Nancy Kanwisher presumed that if the fundamental questions of neuroscience are answered in the future, such mental disorders as Alzheimer’s and autism could be treated one day.
The TED talk is relevant to the materials discussed in the class as it also discusses the matters of sensation and perception. The lecture pinpoints the formation and functions of eyes, the blind spot, and the way the eyes can be deceived with the help of illusionary images. It also explains the processing of information perceived by the brain, visual sensory memory, pattern, object, and facial recognition, prosopagnosia, face inversion, and self-recognition. Finally, the auditory perception, sensory memory, conceptually driven processing, and multisensory integration (synesthesia) are discussed. However, there are some points we did not outline in the course of the lecture. For instance, the process of MRI testing, and how exactly the MRI machine examines the brain. In addition, during her talk, Kanwisher exposed the fundamental questions of neuroscience that she and her group wanted to answer. For example, Kanwisher was very interested in the connections between neurons (patterns), and the way they work or intertwine, triggering one selective area of the brain or another.
If I could ask the presenter some questions, they would be: “How much time would it take to investigate the whole brain?”, “Why do you think not every process a human conducts has its specific area in the brain?”, and “If the brain investigation succeeded, how exactly would Alzheimer’s and autism be treated?”
Summarizing this talk briefly to a friend, I would explain that Nancy Kanwisher is a neuroscientist that explores what the brain can do. She and a group of scientists investigate the gray matter and by so far, they have found different selective spots that react upon face distinction, music, color, cognition and others. If they proceed with their study, in the future, a number of neurological disorders can be treated or even eliminated.
Before presenting the experiment with an epilepsy man, Kanwisher went through the MRI scanning and her group tested multiple people. The participants were watching the pictures of faces or objects and the scientists were recording their brain activity throughout the whole process. Every person showed identical results. In addition, the man with epilepsy whose brain was stimulated with an eclectic current of 4 mA reported that the neurologist’s face had metamorphosed. His nose shifted to the right and the face became different but very familiar (Kanwisher, 2014). Both experiments prove that face recognition is performed by the fusiform face area of the brain. Moreover, this particular area is involved in face recognition on the permanent basis.
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Nancy Kanwisher introduced an interesting topic about the functioning of the brain. According to her, there is a separate area, which is responsible for face distinction. If this area is damaged, a person cannot recognize familiar faces. What is more, the human brain also has spots that are responsible for other actions based on the five human senses.
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