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Friday, October 1, 2010

I Don't Know Me, We Don't Know Us

Just watched the latest episode about decision-making and morality in the fantastic Charlie Rose: The Brain Series. The neurological process of making decisions with varying degree of complexity is one of the hottest subjects in research.

If we still don't know most of the truth about how the brain (or a brain) makes decisions, at least we know one thing for certain: There isn't just one brain, one system, one mechanism, that makes decisions, but rather several (at least two, maybe more) fractured and not very integrated systems, each doing its own perceiving and processing and computing, and the ventromedial prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices are struggling to mediate and make sense of the babbling committee in order to come to a decision. This is what Damasio wrote. And his outlook for the future was almost comical: He hoped that at some point on the evolutionary road, the human brain will evolve into something that blends a little better within itself, so that one area can at least have a clue and a guess at what the rest is doing.

Isn't this crazy and bizarre? Yet we have proof. This is why humans are crazy to begin with. Different regions and systems are each doing their own things and funneling their messages to the PFC, and they have a hard time even making each other heard. I'd say very often they have no idea what each other is doing and wanting and saying. The PFC tries to do its best but sometimes it just has to make something up. This is why at least half of the time I don't even know what emotions I'm feeling and why, because this is the Babel Tower here. My PFC has to push aside some made-up bullshit some areas has fabricated and sit down with my amygdala and try to get at what it's saying, and most of the time it's worse than a Shanghainese talking to a Cantonese for the first time. And the poor me -- all I have is the PFC, the only literate guy in the skull who can at least spell. The rest of them is hopeless.

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