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am 26. Juni 2000
This is excellent science writing. Many complex ideas are made understandable through clear analogies, while clearly pointing out the limitations of those analogies.
The author tries to describe how brain states relate to states of experience; by finding common ground between many extreme experiences. Her elegant (if not original) thesis is that patterns of connectivity between massive numbers of neurons determine our overall state of consciousness. States vary, according to this theory, by how large the interconnected clusters of neurons are, and how rapidly they turnover from one cluster to another. Neuroses and depression reflect a kind of stuckness in wide scale static networks of associations. States of intense sensation all involve "losing our mind" in the sense of dismantling these widespread networks and replacing them with many small networks that rapidly switch from one to another, keeping us trapped in the here and now.
We peer into the life of drug addicts, the fearful, the schizophrenic, and small children, to find some remarkable similarities in their experience. Then we see how the experience is so different for the depressed and those in pain. By comparing these extremes, and comparing the extremes to the way we normally feel, the authors' thesis begins to come to life.
This is a fascinating attempt at a framework for relating brain states and states of consciousness that has a lot of potential, but is clearly still a skeleton. It does, however, make a number of testable predictions discussed in the final chapters, which distinguish this book still further from the usual speculations about how the brain produces conscious experience.
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