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The Enchanted Loom reviews Helen Thomson's book, Unthinkable


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The human brain is full of structural and developmental vulnerabilities. In this investigative journey Helen Thomson takes us on an exploration of how some of those vulnerabilities show up and operate in real people's lives.

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The Enchanted Loom reviews Helen Thomson's book, Unthinkable

  1. 1. The Enchanted Loom Teasing sturdy threads from neuroscience masterworks
  2. 2. Teasing 10 threads from Helen Thomson’s…
  3. 3. Thread 1: Through (modern imaging tools) we now know that there are 180 distinct regions that lie with- in that 3 pound lump of tissue that throbs and flutters within our skulls. (pg. 6)
  4. 4. Thread 2: I tend to imagine our memories as a kind of spidery web of neurons – one that stretches across different areas of the brain and that strengthens or weakens over time. The stronger and more numerous the connections, the more vivid that memory will be and the more easily you will recollect it. Break that web and your memories disappear forever. (pg. 32)
  5. 5. Thread 3: Our ability to recognize familiar landmarks is so important that there’s a part of the brain that is dedicated to the task – it’s called the retrosplenial cortex and when it’s damaged, it leads to severe problems in navigating. (pg. 58)
  6. 6. Thread 4: Developmental topographical disorientation disorder: the inability to generate, and there- fore use, a mental map of your sur- roundings, despite an absence of any brain damage. (pg. 50)
  7. 7. Thread 5: Network theory is an idea that underlies many human behaviors – that the connections between different regions of the brain that allow them to talk to one another may be more important than how well the regions function by themselves.. (pg. 67)
  8. 8. (pg. 80) Thread 6: As we grow and learn and experience the world, a huge amount of (neural) connections are pruned.… people with synesthesia may have a genetic anomaly that prevents this pruning from happening in certain brain areas. As a result synesthetes are left with pathways of communication between sensory regions of the brain that don’t normally exist.
  9. 9. Thread 7: Women perceive men to be more attractive, more desirable and considerably more likeable when they are wearing red clothing. (pg. 84)
  10. 10. Thread 8: I find it difficult to look at The Dress and not be just a little alarmed, because it reveals something of qualia that we so often take for granted: The colors I see are not always the colors that you see. (pg. 91)
  11. 11. Thread 9: Our ability to sense the physical condition of our own body is called interoception. People who have greater interoceptive abilities make better decisions and can make intu- itive choices more quickly. They can judge the passing of time more quickly and also perform better on tasks that require them to divide their attention. (pg. 181)
  12. 12. Thread 10: “Reality is merely a controlled hallucination reined in by our senses. A fantasy that coincides with a reality.” (pg. 141)
  13. 13. Thread 11: We all possess a remarkable feat of neural engine- ering that gives us intense feelings of love, that makes others laugh, that produces an unpredictable life that is utterly unique.…Our brain is a mystery that has not yet revealed the extent of the unimaginable (creations) it is capable of producing. (pg. 251)
  14. 14. Image Credits: Title Page: Slide 3 - Slide 13 - Slide 2 - Slide 6 - Slide 5 - Slide 11 - Slide 10 - Slide 14 - Slide 9 - Slide 8 - Slide 7 - Slide 4 - Slide 12 -
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