Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Program Note - The Neurology of the Soul

When neuroscience started using brain scans from fMRI’s (the f stands for functional) to analyze human brains, the possibilities seemed endless.  Literal mind reading, the ability to see thoughts, seemed not only possible, but on the foreseeable horizon.  And truly, the things these scans have found have been exciting and furthered our understanding of human behavior.  But one day, just to test the system, some scientists put a dead salmon in an fMRI.  The salmon was shown photos of people in social situations, and the scanned data was analyzed, just as with the human studies. According to the data, the dead salmon was having strong feelings about the social interactions it saw.

Since that study, the data analysis has been refined.  And the quest, for better or worse, to see inside our brains continues.  It is tempting to believe that someday all things will be knowable, though it’s harder to know whether we would want them to be knowable.  The privacy inside our minds may be the last privacy left. 

The Neurology of the Soul is about the desire to understand each other, to understand ourselves, to understand love.  Perhaps we will arrive at that understanding.  But remember that dead salmon.  Buyer beware.