In fact, the best metaphor for the mind might be our immune system.Just as our antibodies are constantly altered in response to the pathogens we actually encounter (we do not have the B-cells of our parents, or of our identical twin), the brain is constantly adapting to the particular conditions of our own life.In one particularly audacious experiment, the neuroscientist Mriganka Sur literally re-wired the mind of a ferret, so that the information from its retina was plugged into its auditory cortex.To Sur’s astonishment, the ferrets could still see.In the late 1990s a previously blameless American began collecting child pornography and propositioning children.On the day before he was due to be sentenced to prison for his crimes, he had his brain scanned. When it had been removed, his paedophilic tendencies went away. When the regrowth was removed, they vanished again. His case dramatically illustrates the challenge that modern neuroscience is beginning to pose to the idea of free will.I’ve spilled a lot of ink elsewhere on this phenomenon, but it’s important to remember that your brain is constantly generating new neurons.
Furthermore, their auditory cortex now resembled the typical ferret visual cortex, complete with spatial maps and neurons tuned to detect slants of light.
Michael Merzenich, one of the founders of the plasticity field, called this experiment “The most compelling demonstration you could have that experience shapes the brain.” An important discovery closely related to plasticity has been the discovery of neurogenesis.
What would Brundage make of what the Olympics have become, rife with controversy, endorsements and celebrity showmanship? I was hoping that when we did our London Olympics we'd get back to the real amateur Olympic spirit as it should be," says Irons. Oshie prepares to take a shot against Russia goaltender Sergei Bobrovski in an overtime shootout during a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)Germany's Andreas Wank, left, hugs huis teammates after winning the gold during the ski jumping large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic skates her way to gold in the women's 5,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)New Zealand's Beau-James Wells gets air during the men's ski halfpipe final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 12: Eric Frenzel of Germany celebrates as he wins the gold medal during the Nordic Combined Individual Gundersen Normal Hill and 10km Cross Country on day 5 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Rus Ski Gorki Nordic Combined Skiing Stadium on February 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.… continue reading »