Self Comes to Mind is a nuanced and original chronicle of the evolution of the human brain. It reveals how the brain's development of a self becomes a challenge to nature's indifference and opens the way for the appearance of culture, a radical break in the course of evolution.
Damasio views brain development through the lens of biological evolution - starting with the simplest organisms that exhibit elaborate life regulation devices but do not require brains. The arrival of neurons, possessed of the unique ability to transmit and receive messages, allows neurons to organize themselves in complex circuits and networks, networks that serve to represent events occurring in the body, influence the function of other cells, even their own function. In this framework, the distinction between body and brain is blurred - the neurons that make up the brain and eventually generate the mind are body cells and are perpetually connected to the body.
Neurons are the producers of mind states. And in the increasing complexity of the patterns in which neurons organize themselves is to be found at once the mystery and the clues to the myriad ways in which the brain operates.
The systems of neurons that govern life in the interior of a body - the process of homeostasis - are first assisted by reflex-like dispositions, and eventually by images, the basic ingredient of minds. But the flexibility and creativity of the human mind do not emerge from images alone. They require images to create a protagonist, a self capable of reflection. Once self comes to mind, the devices of reward and punishment, drives and motivations, and emotions can be controlled by an autobiographical self, capable of personal reflection and deliberation. The reflective self becomes a rebellious apprentice to nature's indifferent sorcerer. It uses expanded memory, language, and reasoning to create the very possibility of culture.
"Exquisite… Readers fascinated from both a philosophical and scientific perspective with the question of the relationship among brain, mind, and self will be rewarded." (Publishers Weekly)
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Some important and amazing stuff in this book!
- Jeff Cartwright
Not quite an answer to the questions it raises