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24 - The paradoxical brain – so what?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

Narinder Kapur
University College London
Tom Manly
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK
Jonathan Cole
Bournemouth University
Alvaro Pascual-Leone
Harvard Medical School
Narinder Kapur
University College London
Alvaro Pascual-Leone
Harvard Medical School
Vilayanur Ramachandran
University of California, San Diego
Jonathan Cole
University of Bournemouth
Sergio Della Sala
University of Edinburgh
Tom Manly
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit
Andrew Mayes
University of Manchester
Oliver Sacks
Columbia University Medical Center
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Paradoxical findings relating to the human brain have implications for our understanding of the workings of the normal brain, and for how normal functioning may be enhanced. Paradoxical findings may also have implications for how we can prevent and detect brain disease, and how we may best repair and rehabilitate the damaged brain. The brain may best be modelled as a nonlinear device, which relies on dynamic synchrony and balance between neural systems. Damage to the brain may upset this dynamic state, and repair may often entail interventions that restore a degree of synchrony and balance. In this final chapter, we propose 10 principles of brain function that can help accommodate paradoxical phenomena, and we also speculate on paradoxical therapeutic interventions that may be beneficial to human brain functioning.


If we can be forgiven a degree of owner's pride, the human brain is quite extraordinary. A three-pound mass of jelly-like material is the only entity in the universe (that we know of) which can form and test theories about that universe. It can also speculate about structures much smaller or larger than it can possibly see. It might be thought that, when it comes to studying itself, the brain would have a number of inherent advantages, being on home turf, as it were. It is certainly true that we are very familiar with what the brain can achieve.

The Paradoxical Brain , pp. 418 - 434
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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