Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly.
"Andrea Moro has gained a unique position in formulating and implementing constructive approaches to...difficult and demanding tasks. He is able to address them with a deep understanding of modern linguistics, a field to which he has made a major contribution of his own, and mastery of the relevant technology and its potential. His new book is a lucid introduction to these exciting areas, superbly informed and imaginatively presented, with intriguing implications well beyond biolinguistics.... A rare achievement...."
—Noam Chomsky, from the foreword
The "hard problem" of today's consciousness studies is subjective experience: understanding why some brain processing is accompanied by an experienced inner life. Recent scientific advances offer insights for understanding the physiological and chemical phenomenology of consciousness. But by leaving aside the internal experiential nature of consciousness in favor of mapping neural activity, such science leaves many questions unanswered.
What does it mean to hear music in colors, to taste voices, to see each letter of the alphabet as a different color? These uncommon sensory experiences are examples of synesthesia, when two or more senses cooperate in perception. Once dismissed as imagination or delusion, metaphor or drug-induced hallucination, the experience of synesthesia has now been documented by scans of synesthetes' brains that show "crosstalk" between areas of the brain that do not normally communicate.
Interest in developing an effective communication interface connecting the human brain and a computer has grown rapidly over the past decade. The brain-computer interface (BCI) would allow humans to operate computers, wheelchairs, prostheses, and other devices, using brain signals only.
Research shows that between birth and early adulthood the brain requires sensory stimulation to develop physically. The nature of the stimulation shapes the connections among neurons that create the neuronal networks necessary for thought and behavior. By changing the cultural environment, each generation shapes the brains of the next.
This sequel to the widely read Zen and the Brain continues James Austin’s explorations into the key interrelationships between Zen Buddhism and brain research. In Zen-Brain Reflections, Austin, a clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner, examines the evolving psychological processes and brain changes associated with the path of long-range meditative training. Austin draws not only on the latest neuroscience research and new neuroimaging studies but also on Zen literature and his personal experience with alternate states of consciousness.
Although fatigue has been actively investigated for more than 100 years, we have progressed little in either its theoretical or practical understanding. Fatigue has been considered to be both a symptom and an illness. Fatigue is a primary reason for patient visits to the physician's office, but it is difficult to measure and offers doctors little important information for diagnosis.