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Preface

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

Narinder Kapur
Affiliation:
University College London
Narinder Kapur
Affiliation:
University College London
Alvaro Pascual-Leone
Affiliation:
Harvard Medical School
Vilayanur Ramachandran
Affiliation:
University of California, San Diego
Jonathan Cole
Affiliation:
University of Bournemouth
Sergio Della Sala
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Tom Manly
Affiliation:
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit
Andrew Mayes
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
Oliver Sacks
Affiliation:
Columbia University Medical Center
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Summary

The study of the human brain has been variously referred to as ‘the last great frontier’, or a challenge equivalent to that of understanding the universe. Cosmology and neuroscience, in fact, probably have some things in common. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, has thousands of millions of stars, and some commentators have conjectured that the number of stars in the Milky Way may be similar to the number of cells in the human brain. In the past two decades, imaging and sensing technologies have transformed both the field of neuroscience and the field of cosmology. Perhaps a more interesting analogy is in the realm of awareness and human consciousness. With our current awareness mechanisms, we are usually only aware of a tiny amount of cognitive activity that mediates human behaviour – many cognitive and perceptual inferences take place at an unconscious level, we often fail to realize how our perceptions and beliefs may not be completely based on reality, and we often fool ourselves into believing that we have free will and full responsibility for all our thoughts and actions (Frith, 2007). Similarly, in the case of cosmology, with our eyes alone we are only aware of a tiny part of our galaxy, and if we were to take our perceptions literally, we would fall for the simple delusion that the sun moves round the earth.

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

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