Friday, December 05, 2008

Embracing the Wide Sky Chapter 1 Extracts

I'm going to be posting short extracts here from each of the 10 chapters of my upcoming book 'Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind'. New extracts will appear every other day or so up till New Year.

Chapter 1 is all about the brain and how much more adaptable it is than scientists and the public ever previously imagined:

"The realization that our brains can rewire themselves based on our experiences raises an interesting question: is it possible to tap the power of our brains’ plasticity to enhance our senses and even create new ones? Yes, says the Osnabrück cognitive scientist Peter König, inventor of the ‘feelSpace’ belt. Wide and lined with thirteen vibrating pads, the belt detects the earth’s magnetic field using an electronic compass. With each step of the user, the vibrator that points nearest to magnetic north starts to buzz. In time, the wearer is able to orient himself with ease. One subject who tried the belt out for six weeks described developing an intuitive map of his city inside his head."

(From a later section in the chapter:)

"Evidence that savant talents are rooted in natural (if unusual and extraordinary) brain processing comes from research carried out by the Australian scientist Professor Allan Snyder, director of the Centre for the Mind in Sydney. Autistic thought is not incompatible with ordinary thought, Snyder argues, but a variation on it – a more extreme example. To test his theory, Snyder and his colleagues used a technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which involves sending a series of electromagnetic pulses via electrodes into the subject’s frontal lobes – the idea being to shut down temporarily the left hemisphere of the brain in order to boost the right side (the side most implicated in savant skills). They noted improved artistic and proofreading abilities in several of the subjects following the application of TMS. The improvements disappeared within an hour of the stimulation being stopped."

To find out more about the book, and/or pre-order a copy, visit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have Menieres Disease and your "rewire of the brain" comment rings [poor choice of words] true for me. One of the early stage problems is the vertigo and terrible sickness that accompanies attacks. As the years go by, the brain learns to ignore the 'unbalance' signal coming from the affected ear, and eventually (7-10 years) the vertigo disappears. We call it "burn out" ... but its sort of a "rewiring of the brain."